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Spanish Cinema in New York

Brief overviews of Spanish Cinema Now and The Forgotten Spanish Non-Fiction Cinema and Its Renewal.
The Daily

Spanish Cinema Now opened on Friday with Nacho Vigalondo's Extraterrestrial (it screens again on Thursday) and runs through December 22. Blogging for the Film Society of Lincoln Center, Jeffrey Bloomer notes that this year's festival features a 10-film retrospective of films by the late Luis García Berlanga, "who helped fuel a resurgence in Spanish cinema in the desolate years following the Spanish Civil War…. Two of Berlanga's most acclaimed films screen back-to-back on December 11 and 15. His beloved debut, Welcome Mr Marshall! (1953) [clip above], follows a village's misbegotten attempts to finagle post-war American aid from visiting officials, while Plácido (1961) is a winking Oscar-nominated Christmas story about a town where affluent families each take in a poor person for the holiday. Both are considered to be among Berlanga's masterpieces."

Back, though, for a moment to Extraterrestrial, "sci-fi comedy of cuckolding — a cynical and screwball study of love and suspicion," as Henry Stewart calls it in the L. After a drunken one-night stand, Julio (Julián Villagrán) and Julia (Michelle Jenner) "awaken to an abandoned Madrid and four mile-wide UFOs hovering above. (Yes, they slept through the evacuation.) The movie, though, stays confined to Earth, rarely leaving Julia's modernist apartment and its tangle of romantic jealousies."

When he saw Extraterrestrial in Toronto in September, Noel Murray wrote at the AV Club: "Vigalondo's debut feature Timecrimes made the most of tiny budget, using just a few locations and a few actors to tell a funny, exciting, and even poignant story set in an increasingly constricting time-loop. His second film tries to maintain that level of simplicity and tautness, but the outcome is less than stellar."

Later that same month, Jen Yamato, writing for Movieline, found Extraterrestrial "well matched to the Fantastic Fest spirit, a sweet little romantic comedy in the guise of an alien invasion movie." More from indieWIRE's Eric Kohn and Nicholas Bell at Ioncinema; and Matt Singer's interviewed Vigalondo for IFC.

The Forgotten Spanish Non-Fiction Cinema and Its Renewal, a series spanning four decades, is running at Anthology Film Archives through Wednesday. Ryan Wells: "Arranged in nine programs, the series explores the changing face of non-fiction storytelling. The themes are as varied as the stylistic approaches, ranging from old-school film cut-and-paste to cutting-edge experimental approaches that take the camera's eye further than it has ever gone before." And he presents a brief overview of the shorts programs.

Also at Cinespect, Daniel Guzmán on one of the features: "True flamenco is a lifestyle, an embracing of the sorrow and pain we experience that turns it into something not unlike poetry. It is this concept that is at the heart of Isaki Lacuesta's fiction/documentary hybrid La Leyenda Del Tiempo, named after a song by the famous flamenco singer Camaron De La Isla, who based it on a Federico García Lorca poem by the same name."

Update, 12/11: "Part kaleidoscopic biography, part criticism of mental health practices, part play on the boundary between fiction and reality, [Joaquim Jordà and Núria Villazán's] Monos Como Becky [Monkeys Like Becky, 1999] offers a rich and dizzying observation on what it means to be a rational, thinking person," writes Daniel Guzmán for Cinespect.

Update, 12/13: More from Daniel Guzmán in Cinespect: "In José Luis Guerín's 2001 documentary Work in Progress (En Construcción), the director details the intricacies of everyday life in a Barcelona neighborhood. Shot over a two-year period, the film follows the demolition of a dilapidated apartment complex and its rebirth as a luxury building for a new, wealthier class of resident (Hello, Brooklyn!)."

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I envy New York’s opportunity to view this retrospective. Recently, I was quite intrigued by the suite of interviews offered in the current issue of Film International on the Barcelona school and the New Spanish Cinema after the fall of Franco’s regime: Perhaps an issue to pick up to accompany this retrospective?

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