Monday, September 10, 2012

New Documentary Featuring Spaghetti Western Actors

By Juan Laborda Barceló

A beautiful actress who was earning a living as a voice dubber (among others, for pornographic films), the life and professional journey of a Danish actress, an actor who portrayed King Ferdinand, and a mature supporting actor who appeared in a big blockbuster for Ridley Scott, are some of the stars of this film. With them are other names seldom remembered in our catalog of Spanish cinema of the 60s, 70s and 80s. The magnificent anecdotes that appear in the footage could nurture several scripts of what is sometimes called "a film within a film" (“Twilight of the Gods” (1950) by Billy Wilder and “Two Weeks in Another Town” (1962) Vincente Minnelli, are two good examples, of films that reflect on the film itself), but staying focused on the genre and the work at hand is part of this long documentary.

In any case, there is something “Contra el tiempo” (Against Time) that has aesthetic taste for cinema automatically recreating itself. Not surprisingly, the narrative is established through the figure of a young actor (Antonio Mora) looking at the experiences of key veterans to learn the ins and outs of the profession. Thus, the film creates a fiction in itself, as if the travel is invented, but plausible, interviews with such veteran performers (Lone Fleming, Antonio Mayans, Mabel Escano, Carlos Bravo and Ricardo Palacios) are loaded with truth, passion and a love for acting that is made more or less explicit, in the film.

The fictional character, which was not planned in the original script, eventually wins over the viewer in the last third of the film. Two of these actors were interviewed at the Malaga Film Festival. The meeting of old friends is full of charm and is the climax of the narrative. The city plays a ubiquitous role in the opening act, creating a magical background on which the couple passes. The nostalgia of a time of living that will never return, embodied in those two actors who now make themselves available on camera, is a set of mirrors and emotions irresistible to any cinephile. Few things are more cinematic (and literary) then a melancholy tribute to the past.
The director, José Manuel Serrano Cueto, focuses on the humanity of his subjects. Taking in the pleasant and rich experiences of this group of actors, closing with a heartfelt tribute to Aldo Sambrell, the great villain of the spaghetti western, who died in 2010.

The documentary, as we have explained, collects the impressions of some actors who have unjustly fallen into oblivion, but in turn become an undeniable historical source, acquiring value. These interviews are direct sources of the knowledge of a time in our history and our film. The years of Samuel Bronston epics, when a number of our technicians and actors worked with the Americans, and struggled in these projects. The films were being shot by foreigners in Spain and what those directors did here, ultimately, built for our country an industry, which is portrayed by the comments of the men who lived through it at the time. It is therefore a documentary that even without that purpose or  purposes can serve the purpose of Clio, the muse of history.

“Contra el tiempo” is an exercise in cinephilia in its fullest sense. It has the courage to put the focus on men and women who, despite not having been heard from in a long time, can bring great things out of the past and the present to our cinema.

Contra el tiempo

A 2011 Spanish production [Utopia Films (Madrid)]
Producer: Carlos Taillefer
Director: José Manuel Serrano Cueto
Story: José Manuel Serrano Cueto, Montse Gómez
Screenplay: José Manuel Serrano Cueto, Montse Gómez
Cinematography: Jesús Haro, Jokin Pascual [color]
Music: Dolores Serrano Cueto
Running time: 91 minutes

Lone Fleming, Mabel Escaño, Antonio Mayans, Carlos Bravo, Fernando García Rimada, Antonio Mora, Ricardo Palacios, Aldo Sambrell, Antonio Mora, Jimena Sancho, José Manuel Serrano Cueto, Dolores Serrano Cueto, Manuel Tallafé

A young actor learns about the ins and outs of the Spanish film industry from a series of interviews with veteran actors.

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