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The cinema of Álex de la Iglesia

The cinema of Álex de la Iglesia

Peter Buse
Núria Triana Toribio
Andy Willis
Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    The cinema of Álex de la Iglesia
    Book Description:

    Álex de la Iglesia, initially championed by Pedro Almodóvar, and at one time the enfant terrible of Spanish film, still makes film critics nervous. The director of some of the most important films of the Post-Franco era – Acción mutante, El día de la bestia, Muertos de risa – receives here the first full length study of his work. Breaking away from the pious tradition of acclaiming art-house auteurs, The cinema of Álex de la Iglesia tackles a new sort of beast: the popular auteur, who brings the provocation of the avant-garde to popular genres such as horror and comedy. This book brings together Anglo-American film theory, an exploration of the legal and economic history of Spanish audio-visual culture, a comprehensive knowledge of Spanish cultural forms and traditions (esperpento, sainete costumbrista) with a detailed textual analysis of all of Álex de la Iglesia’s seven feature films.

    eISBN: 978-1-84779-166-5
    Subjects: Performing Arts

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-32)

    A hatchet in the head is a cheap novelty item obtainable from a party shop. The blade is plastic, the arc where it fits round the skull has been removed, and a strap under the chin secures the whole contraption in place. The effect is ludicrous, the intent puerile, a Halloween trick with a number of variants: the saw, the arrow, the axe. In cartoons, it can have an indexical value, signifying a headache. A hatchet in the head is also a minor feature in the iconography of martyrdom in fifteenthand sixteenth-century century painting. This tradition coincides with the rise...

  6. 1 Acción mutante (1993): against the conspiracy of boredom
    (pp. 33-52)

    Speaking at the Manchester Spanish Film Festival in 2000, Álex de la Iglesia declared that he was not really a film director. ‘I’m more of a barman’, he declared, ‘I just make cocktails’. His films, he implied, were simply an elaborate montage of quotations from other directors, genres, and film-styles, a self-assessment well borne out byAcción mutante(1993), the De la Iglesia team’s first feature film, which promiscuously mixes science fiction and comedy,film noirand western, Almodóvar and Ridley Scott. Were such a claim, and its associated renunciation of auteur status, to issue from an American independent director,...

  7. 2 El día de la bestia (1995): comedy, subcultures, television
    (pp. 53-76)

    El día de la bestia,released in 1995, is Álex de la Iglesia’s second featurelength film, and marked the beginning of the director’s association with the producer Andrés Vicente Gómez and his Lolafilms organisation. The film was the third to appear from a deal between Gómez and Sogetel to produce around eight to ten features a year, a deal that established both parties at the forefront of film production in Spain. Costing just under 2 million euros, it was a substantial commercial success in Spain, cementing De la Iglesia’s central position in the generation of young directors who had begun...

  8. 3 Perdita Durango (1997): the body, sex and Mexico
    (pp. 77-96)

    Perdita Durangois exceptional among Álex de la Iglesia’s completed films in a number of ways. It is an international co-production with Spanish and Mexican finance; it is a bilingual film, set and filmed in Mexico and the United States; it makes use of a mainly non-Spanish cast, including a then prominent Hollywood star, Rosie Pérez; and it was a relative failure, both critically and at the box office.¹ In addition, the story and script forPerdita,unlike De la Iglesia’s other six feature films to date, were not in the first instance the work of De la Iglesia and...

  9. 4 Muertos de risa (1999): comedy, television, history
    (pp. 97-118)

    After the first British screening in 2004 ofTorremolinos 73(2003), an audience member complained to director Pablo Berger that Spanish film was obsessed with revisiting the past and thatTorremolinos 73was yet another example of this malady.¹ Berger, one of Álex de la Iglesia’s former collaborators, admitted that the Civil War had been over-represented in Spanish cinema, but argued that the early 1970s, the period in whichTorremolinos 73is set, had hardly been touched at all. AlthoughTorremolinos 73and De la Iglesia’s fourth feature film, Muertos de risa (1999), are neither the first nor the only...

  10. 5 La comunidad (2000): modernity and the cinematic past
    (pp. 119-138)

    If it is a reliable law of European film production that commercial and critical success rarely go hand in hand, thenLa comunidad(2000) provides an interesting case study. De la Iglesia’s fifth feature film was seen by 1,263,268 spectators in 2000 and was thus the undisputed Spanish box-office success of the year, but it was incorrectly ‘tipped as favourite’ (Fernández-Santos 2001, 38) to amass accolades at the Spanish Oscars – the Premios Goya.¹ Like all of the other films,La comunidadinvokes or cites genre cinema without ever simply inhabiting any single genre. It is probably most accurate to say...

  11. 6 800 balas (2002): undoing the ignominy of boyhood
    (pp. 139-160)

    Back in March 1999, Álex de la Iglesia told journalist Milagros Martín- Lunas fromEl Mundothat the idea forMuertos de risacame to him on his way to the airport while scouting for locations forLa máscara de Fu Manchú(The Mask of Fu Manchu) – the script on which he and Guerricaechevarría were working at that time and which was meant to be an ambitious and Hollywood-style co-production based on the classic thriller character Fu Manchu (Martín-Lunas 1999). Their financial backer was Andrés Vicente Gómez, continuing a partnership that had started in 1995, as we have seen in...

  12. 7 Crimen ferpecto (2004): the mise-en-scène of mise-en-scène
    (pp. 161-176)

    Crimen ferpecto,Álex de la Iglesia’s seventh feature film as director and second as a producer with Pánico, was released in October 2004 and by the end of the year had recouped at the box office most of its budget of 4.5 million euros. After the venture into meta-cinematic territory with 800 balas and its exploration of Spanish film-making history,Crimen ferpectoreturns to the black comedy ofEl día de la bestia, Muertos de risaandLa comunidad.Rafael (Guillermo Toledo), an egocentric and womanizing salesman, is manager of the ladies’ section of Yeyo’s, a large department store modelled...

  13. Conclusion
    (pp. 177-180)

    InFreaks en acción,Jordi Sánchez Navarro argues that Álex de la Iglesia is unique among his generation of film-makers in the way that he straddles two models of the contemporary Spanish director: ‘los autores . . . llamados a redefinir el futuro del cine español y los de la tradición del cine de explotación de los géneros marcadamente populares’ (those auteurs . . . called to redefine the future of Spanish cinema and those who work within the markedly popular genres’ (2005, 8–9). We are not certain what Sánchez Navarro means when he writes of a group of...

  14. Filmography of Álex de la Iglesia
    (pp. 181-188)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 189-196)
  16. Index
    (pp. 197-214)