Category Archives: Imaginary Spanish Cinema

#171 – Camino de Santiago

(2003, US/Sp, 104 min) Dir Emmanuel Pascal, Andrea Filipe.

The first in Pascal and Filipe’s four years in the making Walks Trilogy. The directing duos films are the very paragon of simplicity, following a process or – in the case of their Walks Trilogy – journeys. In Access Road they follow the construction of a mining road in the forests of the Pacific Northwest and with Camino de Santiago they turn their cool lens on the route and the walkers of the famous European pilgrimage. It’s simple – the film begins in Roncevaux and ends in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela recording the landscape along the way. To some it’s the very definition of cinematic wallpaper but to others the way they record the changing of the landscapes, the relationship of the people within it and the places where the modern world runs up against a path that has remained unchanged in hundreds of years all tells a story that no words could adequately convey. As you can tell I’m a fully paid up member of the latter camp. Still a stunning film on the small screen it plays all the better in the cinema. Pascal and Filipe followed this up with The Inca Trail and Shikoku Pilgrimage, both as stunning as this.

Twitter: @MadeUpFilms


#151 – Elisa Lees

(1972, Fr/Sp/WGer, 82 min) Dir Helmut Durmou. Cast Lisa Beit, Howard Messinger, Peter Feebler.

Serious Seventies kink from Swiss director Helmut Durmou, the man who quietly amassed a fine oeuvre of very personal and highly specialised films over his thirty year career and who sadly died in the first week of this year at the age of eighty-one. Elisa Lees was his first film, made at the age of forty-two with privately sourced funds and follows the awakening of its naïve title character as she is inducted into a new world. So far, so generic as far as these things go but about halfway through the film the dominated becomes the dominatrix and she returns to discipline the men who once held mastery over her. This isn’t done in a mean, revengey kind of way though – Durmou’s films frequently kept their eye on the ball with regards consent and roleplay and the men are all very grateful once she’s done with them with the suggestion floating about that we’re merely bearing witness to a kind of ‘edited reality’ and that there is a larger story at play that we are only glimpsing. It’s a little rough around the edges but Durmou’s classical staging and clear, sharp photography are already on display – he clearly knew what he wanted from the outset.

Twitter: @MadeUpFilms

#114 – Baroness Lesbos

(1978, Fr/Sp, 99 min) Dir Catherine Dominique. Cast Ewa Rohm, Adrianna Belle, Hans, Peter Allison.

Originally titled The Mother of All Sin this is the one film of Dominique’s she seems incapable of standing behind, despite what even she admits are some moments of beauty studded throughout. “It was taken away from me by the bastard producers,” she told me at a 2010 retrospective in Berlin, “They cut it and take out what they don’t like. They film more things and put them in too. Even they take it’s name. I find it hard to look at still, you know?” As you might expect what was taken out was atmosphere and what was added was sex, but that’s not what upset Dominique: “The actors – Adrianna and Hans and Peter – they all work with me before so they refuse to not work with me. All they have then is Ewa, who I never wanted anyway.” That’s not all they had – they also had another woman in a blonde wig pretending to be Adrianna Belle but who looks so unlike her it completely sinks the back half of the film which is a shame as the first half is as strong as anything she has made with fantastic use made of the sunsets along the Spanish coast. Dominique would be back on solid ground three years later with the crown jewel of the sexploitation half of her career – the beautiful and romantic Falling Blossom.

Twitter: @MadeUpFilms

#50 – Cincuenta Ojos De Augusto Welles, Las (Fifty Eyes of Augusto Welles, The)

(1996, Sp, 101 min) Dir Alex Camino. Cast José Molina, Francisco Vivo, Ángela Merlo.

Young Pablo is moving out into the country with his sickly mother, back the village where she grew up. Her family, especially her aunt, are a superstitious lot who close the curtains when it gets dark “to stop the eyes looking in”. It’s the summer and having no friends he takes to exploring the countryside, especially the nearby forests and hills. When he’s up overlooking the village he finds the remains of an old stone building. “It looks old, doesn’t it?” The voice startles him – it’s another young boy crouched unseen beside the building. “It’s not that old actually,” he says, “It only burned down twenty years ago.” Pablo asks how the boy knows this. “It was my school,” replies the boy, “And I was in it when it burned.” Pablo keeps his friendship with the boy a secret and find out what he is so afraid of – in the night something big wanders through the woods, thrashing aside the trees and calling out for the boy like the nightmare of a stern father. There is an eerie scene when they are all alone having escaped whatever it is that’s trying to find them. They look up and open their eyes at long last they find themselves surrounded by eyes looking at them from the darkness of the surrounding trees. “There he is!” cries a chorus of young boy’s voices. These are the fifty eyes of the title, the eyes of his dead classmates. A fantastic fairy tale of a film that delves into the darkness of Spain’s recent past through the eyes of its children.

Twitter: @MadeUpFilms