NOTE: This is not a comprehensive guide of Catalan cinema but is just a humble homage to several film makers who were born in Catalonia, though they worked and still do inside as well as outside that wonderful region located in the Northeast of Spain by the Mediterranean. So the films listed here may not be set in Catalonia; they might also have been produced internationally or even shot in other languages different from Catalan or even Spanish. The subject of this list is simply films of some avant-garde Catalan directors that I’ve watched and loved and those that are on my watch list.
I’ll start this journey to Catalonia by the hand of some auteurs from the Barcelona School of Cinema like Pere Portabella, Joaquín Jordá, Jacinto Esteva and others from younger generations like José Luis Guerin, Albert Serra and Isaki Lacuesta, but I hope I’ll find some more companions on the way.
Suggestions are most welcome. I hope there’ll be interaction from your part. This list is under construction and it’ll remain so for a certain time.
To conceive a film, I always need to place myself in front of a blank sheet. It is the shortest road to the blank and empty screen, with the best conditions. In a way, it is like working directly on the screen itself.
It is simply a matter of letting a situation, a fortuitous event, a starting point, fall onto the blank page, black on white…a stain. A centre around which the story is then woven.
The initial ideas must be translated into images; they must be visualised. When you see them, you can distinguish the ones that suit you from the ones that do not. And feel the silence and the sounds, which are inseparable from the images as they settle on the empty space of the screen. The sharpest of all the scenes that pass before our eyes. It is like entering and leaving places as we delve further into them. Everything that takes place gradually materialises during the process before the film shoot: the process of ideas. The place they inhabit in the imaginary landscape around them is intimately tied in. Their very dialectic tells us what we should or should not do, limits the possible choices, hinders dispersion and channels the imagination, which reinforces the capacity for creativity. If not, it would be like working in a void. When filming, with the structured text-agenda, each shot resolves the previous one and serves to prepare the next. It is these and no others that must be filmed. Each shot should bear the cadence and the tone of the entire film, and there is no chance to record alternative or remedy shots. The imagined story has already been viewed before the film is shot. The space of the imagination is for inspiration what the viewpoint is for the gaze. Thus, the narrative structure finds its logic in questioning language, to adapt it to our own needs.
Without this process, before shooting, it is useless to hope to extract ideas from a natural scenario or a studio. Spaces or scenarios that are always expectant, awaiting the capacity for abstraction in the trespasser’s gaze. When you get to the cutting room, the continuity, the cadence and the tone are already there. You simply have to be careful when optimising the film materials, to adjust the shots to their assigned places and times. It’s that easy.
—Pere Portabella in www.pereportabella.com
The period when the Barcelona School emerged was one of hectic artistic agitation. The interaction of the Barcelona School of Cinema and the artistic movement Dau al Set gave its fruits in Portabella’s Nocturno 29, where we can see poet, playwright and scriptwriter Joan Brossa and painter Antoni Tàpies playing cards in one of the most memorable scenes of the film. Some of the posters for the films of Portabella were painted by Tàpies and by Joan Miró.
Time by Joan Brossa:
This line is the present.
That line you just read is the past
(It fell behind after you read it)
The rest of the poem is the future,
existing outside your
are here, whether you read them
or not. And nothing in the world
can change that.
Aquest vers és el present.
El vers que heu llegit ja és el pasta
-ja ha quedat enrera després de la lectura.
La resta del poema és el futur,
que existeix fora de la vostra
són aquí, tant si els llegiu
com no. I cap poder terrestre
no ho pot modificar.
Article on the history of Catalan cinema by Manuel Yáñez Murillo
Article by José Luis Guerin on his film Work in Progress
Article Mapping Catalonia in 1967: The Barcelona School in Global Context by Rosalind Galt
Article Joaquim Jordá or Situation Cinema by Carles Guerra
Essay Filming the Other in the Cinema of Joachim Jordá by Fran Benavente and Glòria Salvadó.
Essay Uncanny Visions of History: Two Experimental Documentaries from Transnational Spain by Marsha Kinder on Train of Shadows and Asaltar los cielos.
An interview with Portabella, some posters of his films made by Antoni Tàpies and Joan Miró and other documents at the MOMA
Article on Guerin’s Train of Shadows by Darren Hughes.
Albert Serra interviewed on Birdsong by Darren Hughes.
Esteve Riambau and Casimiro Torreiro, La escuela de Barcelona: el cine de la “gauche divine” (Barcelona: Editorial Anagrama, 1999) (only in Spanish)
STILL MISSING FROM THE DATABASE:
Cada vez que … estoy enamorada creo que es para siempre (Carlos Durán, 1968)
Bibici Story (Carlos Durán, 1969)
Biotaxia (José María Nunes, 1968)
Barcelona en tranvía (Ricardo de Baños, 1908) (watch it here) This has been a great suggestion by Gongoina
… And many more!
ESPECIAL THANKS TO Arsaib for his always wise and insightful comments and for inspiring me to research a bit more on Catalan cinema in this second time I’m doing this list.Read less