Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Banderas' SUMMER RAIN in Berlinale

Antonio Banderas
I was in Spain, including Malaga, the summer of 1978, traveling, studying and teaching Spanish Cinema for the University of Southern California (USC). It was my first time in Spain, and I was struck by the repression lingering after the death of Francisco Franco in 1975. It was everywhere. At that time, movies were concerned with two subjects: religion and sex, in that order. However, it wasn't overt sex. Everything was cloaked, including criticism of the church. Yet, they were already taking open potshots at Franco.

There was no love lost between the new King Juan Carlos and the late dictator, although Franco had picked Juan Carlos as successor. The new king was already easing Franco's fascistic fist that controlled Spanish society.

I went back three years later. Censorship had been lifted, and the order of movie themes had definitely reversed. Most of the films dealt with sexual repression. Oh, my, titillating sexual images were on display everywhere, especially in the movies.

Now, someone who was there at the same time and experiencing this enormous change has made a movie about it. SUMMER RAIN, (El Camino de los Ingleses, Spain, 2006), directed by Antonio Banderas, had its world premiere at this year's Sundance International Film Festival, and will screen at the Berlin Film Festival. RAIN is set in Malaga, Spain, in the late 1970's as Spain emerges from the almost four-decade dictatorship of Francisco Franco.

During a news conference at the Berlinale, talking about SUMMER RAIN and his life in Malaga, the AP reported that "Banderas, 46, recalled being laughed at for wanting to be an actor. 'The 70s were years in which they actually didn't allow me to dream — not only in a political context but in my family, even my friends. What I remember being in Malaga at the time, very strongly was the complex of inferiority that we had.' "

I first saw Banderas in Carlos Saura's LOS ZONCOS (The Stilts, 1984), during another time in Spain. Then, I saw MATADOR (1986) at the Santa Barbara Film Festival in 1987. I remarked to my companion, "Wow! If Banderas can speak English, he can be a huge international star." He didn't at the time, but he learned, and broke out in the U.S. market in the 1992 THE MAMBO KINGS as one of the Castillo brothers. It was his first English-language movie and in it he did it all -- act, sing and dance. Hollywood noticed!

Pedro Almodóvar is given credit for discovering Bandares. Actually, he didn't, but he gave Bandaras his first starring roles in the 1986 MATADOR and 1987 La Ley del deseo (LAW OF DESIRE). Both screened in the U.S., and were well received.
In 1999, Banderas directed his first film, CRAZY IN ALABAMA, and then returned to acting in SPY KIDS and THE LEGEND OF ZORRO. With SUMMER RAIN, he returns to his Spanish roots.

This movie, based on a novel by Banderas' childhood friend Antonio Soler who also cowrote the screenplay with Banderas, follows the lives, loves and dreams of a group of teens growing up in the Mediterranean resort still impacted by fascistic repression, especially sexual repression. The cast: Victoria Abril, Alberto Amarilla,Raúl Arévalo, María Ruiz, Juan Diego, Félix Gómez, and Fran Perea.

See post of 27 January for more details about SUMMER RAIN, and click the links on the right sidebar for my Film Festival Page and Spain/Cinema page. Note: I cannot explain why the movie's English title is SUMMER RAIN when the Spanish title literally translates to THE ENGLISH ROAD. Hu-u-u-um.

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