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Julio Medem

Julio Medem

Rob Stone
Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Julio Medem
    Book Description:

    This thorough account of the life and films of the Spanish-Basque filmmaker Julio Medem is the first book in English on the internationally renowned writer-director of Vacas, La ardilla roja (Red Squirrel), Tierra, Los amantes del Círculo Polar (Lovers of the Arctic Circle), Lucía y el sexo (Sex and Lucía), La pelota vasca: la piel contra la piedra (Basque Ball) and Caótica Ana (Chaotic Ana), Initial chapters explore Medem’s childhood, adolescence and education and examine his earliest short films and critical writings against a background of a dramatically changing Spain. Later chapters provide accounts of the genesis, production and release of Medem’s challenging and sensual films, which feed into complex but lucid analyses of their meanings, both political and personal, in which Stone draws on traditions and innovations in Basque art, Spanish cinema and European philosophy to create a complete and provocative portrait of Medem and his work.

    eISBN: 978-1-84779-189-4
    Subjects: Performing Arts

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of figures
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xi-xii)
    Rob Stone
  5. Note on interviews
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. 1 Author, auteur, Aitor
    (pp. 1-17)

    ‘I think my best work is still to come. Truly’, says Julio Medem in what is an open-ended conclusion to his last interview for a book about him [5]. Nevertheless, he already enjoys a reputation in Basque, Spanish, European and even World cinema for the colourful eroticism, subjective camerawork, elaborate plotting, structural equations, straight-faced absurdity and obsessions with symmetry, duality and chance that characterise the films he has written and directed.Vacas(1992),La ardilla roja(Red Squirrel, 1993),Tierra(1996),Los amantes del Círculo Polar(Lovers of the Arctic Circle, 1998),Lucía y el sexo(Sex and Lucía, 2001)...

  7. 2 A sense of nobility: the making of Medem
    (pp. 18-35)

    For one whose films are so preoccupied with fabulism in national and personal histories, Medem is academically precise about his own lineage:

    The name Medem is German, although its origin is Scottish. It becomes German in the eighteenth century, Prussian to be exact. In my family there has always been a sense of belonging to nobility. [5]

    Medem’s German grandfather was a giant of 1.96 metres who died in Berlin of renal failure just before the Spanish Civil War but is remembered as Aki, the uphill skier, inLos amantes del Círculo Polar. He was survived by Medem’s Valencian grandmother,...

  8. 3 The other side of the hole: Vacas (1992)
    (pp. 36-67)

    The state monopoly of television in Spain ended in 1989 when Spanish Canal Plus was formed to win one of three independent television franchises. The others went to Antena 3 (part-owned by ABC) and Tele 5 (part-owned by the Italian mogul and politician Silvio Berlusconi). This Spanish wing of Canal Plus, the multinational European satellite subscription television company, was part-owned by Prisa and French Canal Plus. As the channel took off, it changed the viewing habits of ‘a nation of TV addicts, [for] the Socialists’ decision to allow competition on television is likely to be seen with hindsight as one...

  9. 4 Eyes that entangle: La ardilla roja (1993)
    (pp. 68-95)

    Vacasmay have made little money in Spain, but it was the international sales that convinced Sogetel of the profits to be gained by investing in Medem as auteur. The boom in private European television channels, satellite broadcasting, rental and sell-through video, the spread of consumer electronics through peripheral ancillary markets including Africa, Asia and the breakaway states from the Soviet Union made for a massive variety of market-places avid for commercial product. Thus, in addition to the lucrative Latin and South American markets, where Spanish films enjoyed easy distribution, Spanish cinema became a saleable commodity in an increasingly hectic...

  10. 5 That part of you that died: Tierra (1996)
    (pp. 96-123)

    Just as the autonomous Basque government of the 1980s had subsidised Basque filmmakers such as Imanol Uribe, Daniel Calparsoro and Julio Medem as a means of creating a credible notion of Basque cinema, so in the 1990s did Sogetel (renamed Sogecine in 1997) invest in projects that might realise the company’s ambitions for international success. This strategy was predicated on the auteurist credentials of filmmakers such as Álex de la Iglesia (El día de la bestia[1995],Perdita Durango[1997]), Fernando Trueba (Two Much[1995]), Vicente Aranda (Libertarias[1996]), Alejandro Amenábar (Abre los ojos[1997]) and Julio Medem, whoseLa...

  11. 6 A question of love: Los amantes del Círculo Polar (1998)
    (pp. 124-149)

    Spanish film audiences grew during the decade of the 1990s along with the number of private television channels and new cinemas, 982 of which had opened by its end (ICAA 2003). However, so did the average cost of film production, prompting Spanish companies to seek foreign investors and co-production partners with their sights on the pan-European multiplex audiences and the favours of such American distributors as Miramax and Fine Line. By the mid 1990s, however, an impending crisis in the Spanish film industry was blamed on a government set on eroding subsidies and abandoning a system of screen quotas by...

  12. 7 A ray of sun: Lucía y el sexo (2001)
    (pp. 150-177)

    Medem was so concerned by predictions of an adverse commercial response to the sad ending ofLos amantes del Círculo Polarthat he ran away from the pre-release anticipation of another failure likeTierrato the Balearic island of Formentera. He had visited the island once before, two weeks prior to heading for Finland to filmLos amantes del Círculo Polar, when he had stayed with friends of his partner Montse Sanz named Elena and Lorenzo, but this time the ferry crossing was an escape route from what he feared was the end of his filmmaking career. He recalls that...

  13. 8 Framing fearful symmetry: La pelota vasca: la piel contra la piedra (2003)
    (pp. 178-206)

    The crack of a hard rubber ball against a concrete wall is the opening shot of Medem’s documentaryLa pelota vasca: la piel contra la piedra. The sound is an aural symbol, an onomatopoeic metaphor for a notion of the suffering ‘skin’ of the Basque people and the intransigent ‘stone’ of the Basque conflict.La pelota vascais a polyphonic patchwork of speakers on this subject, whose range of perspectives and depth of feeling are interwoven in an inclusive montage that, in terms of finding a solution, is both open-minded and, inevitably, open-ended. It is also a stylish transposition of...

  14. 9 Work in progress
    (pp. 207-211)

    By April 2004,La pelota vascawas still causing aftershocks and reflection in all who had participated in its production. Koldo Zuazua was ‘content, but not proud; actually rather disturbed’ [13] while Medem declared ‘it’s very ironic, but thanks to the Partido Popular I can now pay all my debts’ [5]. Moreover, the debate about the Basque conflict had extended beyond Spain as the film played in international festivals. Meanwhile, a somewhat reclusive Medem saw out his prior commitments by filming television advertisements for an electric goods company that offered meaningful looks between a couple on an island that resembled...

  15. Filmography
    (pp. 212-220)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 221-228)
  17. Index
    (pp. 229-236)