Luis García Berlanga

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Luis García Berlanga

Post  Guest on Thu Nov 24, 2011 11:31 pm

His movies Welcome, Mister Marshall! and The Executioner are a must see.



The following article is one year old (when Berlanga died).


Luis García Berlanga obituary

Spanish film-maker best known for his satire Bienvenido, Mister Marshall!

Nick Caistor
guardian.co.uk, Sunday 14 November 2010 18.43 GMT


Luis Garcia Berlanga. 'My films are about failure,' he once said. Photograph: Alvaro Rodriguez/Cover/Getty Images

During the Franco years, the survival of independent cinema in Spain was thanks to the "Three Bs" — Luis Buñuel, Juan Antonio Bardem and Luis García Berlanga. The last of these irreverent, original film-makers, who has died aged 89, Berlanga was pivotal in reviving the Spanish film industry after the end of the civil war, despite his many tussles with Franco's censors.

In 1953 he established himself with ¡Bienvenido, Mister Marshall! (Welcome, Mr Marshall!), a masterful comedy about the hopes of Spanish villagers that the Marshall Plan will make them rich. In 1961 Plácido, a satire about a poor man invited to dinner in a wealthy household on Christmas Eve, was nominated for the Oscar for best foreign-language film. But his caustic brand of comedy probably reached its apogee in 1963's El Verdugo (The Executioner) about a young man desperate to get a job who finds himself employed as a public executioner. Here, as in all his films, Berlanga was on the side of the individual, looking at his travails from a libertarian, non-ideological viewpoint.

Berlanga was born in Valencia, the son and grandson of republican politicians. The Spanish civil war broke out when he was only 15 but, as he often recalled, at first he found the experience exhilarating, with school cancelled and a general atmosphere of freedom. But this soon changed, first when his father was forced to flee to Tangiers after criticising what he saw as excesses committed by the anarchists, and then when the young Luis was called up to fight.

At 17, he found himself at the Battle of Teruel, one of the defining campaigns of the civil war. Berlanga always insisted that he played no real part in the fighting, and could remember only how cold he had been, in temperatures of -18C. Before long, the war was over, and he began to study law at Valencia University.

But he soon saw yet more freezing military action, as a volunteer in the División Azul which went to fight in Russia on the side of the Germans. According to Berlanga, his family encouraged him to go in order to help his father, who by now had been brought back by Franco from North Africa, and was facing a possible death penalty.

Despite these bellic interludes, by the end of the 1940s Berlanga had graduated from the Madrid film school, and in 1951 directed his first film, Esa Pareja Feliz (That Happy Couple), together with Bardem (uncle of the actor Javier Bardem). But it was his second film, ¡Bienvenido, Mister Marshall!, that established Berlanga's reputation and helped open a new chapter in Spanish film. Set in a small town in the Spanish countryside, the film tells in hilarious fashion of how the authorities and others react to the prospect that Mr Marshall will be coming to Spain to personally dispense his millions.

In the end, of course, the townspeople are left empty-handed. "My films are about failure," Berlanga once said. "They're about individuals who see a chance to get out of the mess they're in and set out to grab that chance, but they always fail, because it was an illusion anyway." In the process however, the anti-heroes of Berlanga's films get into endless entertaining scrapes, and by the end leave the viewer with a grudging sense of respect and compassion for such hapless adventurers.

Perhaps the most extreme example of Berlanga's comic view of a character attempting to change his circumstances by taking up an unlikely challenge was The Executioner, in which the last thing in the world that the title character wants to do is to kill anyone. Here, as in his other films, Berlanga's humour was black and bitter; as he claimed proudly, he was the film director most often hauled up before Franco's censors to explain his intentions. After Franco's death in 1975, Berlanga directed a trilogy of films casting a wry look at the hopes and illusions raised by the transition to democratic rule: La Escopeta Nacional (The National Shotgun, 1978); Patrimonio Nacional (National Heritage, 1981); and Nacional III (National III, 1982). In contrast to Franco's attempts to create a national identity based around the family, church and nation, Berlanga insisted that the individual and his or her private passions were nobody's business but their own.

It was the same beliefs which, in 1977, led Berlanga to start a collection of erotic literature called La Sonrisa Vertical (The Vertical Smile). A prize for the best erotic novel in Spanish was awarded each year, and Berlanga published erotic works by friends such as Mario Vargas Llosa, Camilo José Cela, and Almudena Grandes. In his films, too, he showed how lonely passions can lure individuals into strange worlds, as with Grandeur Nature (Life Size), a 1973 feature in which the French actor Michel Piccoli played a man who prefers a blow-up doll to struggles with a flesh-and-blood female.

By the second half of the 1980s, a new generation of film-makers was emerging in Spain. Berlanga was happy to take on the role of encouraging new talents such as Pedro Almodóvar. He was passionate, too, about the development of the film industry; one of his last great projects was to push for the setting up of the most modern film studios in Europe, near Alicante. Berlanga always insisted that film-making was a team effort and only by having a proper industrial base could the art and heart of cinema be preserved.

He is survived by his wife, María Jesús Manrique, whom he married in 1954, and three of their four sons.

• Luis García Berlanga Martí, film director, born 12 June 1921; died 13 November 2010

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Re: Luis García Berlanga

Post  Guest on Thu Nov 24, 2011 11:58 pm

Not on your life/The Executioner (El Verdugo)



El verdugo was the eighth feature film written and directed by Luis García Berlanga in collaboration with his longtime associate, Rafael Azcona. The story pivots upon the fate of a pleasant, if somewhat timid, young undertaker whose dream is to go to Germany and become a mechanic. This dream is thwarted when he happens to meet the executioner in a prison where both of them are plying their trade. In spite of the aversion that the young man (and everyone else) feels for the executioner, he not only ends up marrying the executioner's daughter, but even takes over his father-in-law's business.

El verdugo is a farce or domestic comedy filled with macabre touches and scenes of black humor in which the taboos associated with death are transgressed. Even the actual mode of execution is the subject of morbid jokes as the executioner, who garrots his victims, measures the neck size of his future son-in-law. The film is punctuated with these bits of gallows humor as well as with comic reversals that take the audience by surprise. A particularly fine example occurs at the end of the movie when the young executioner is carried kicking and screaming like the victim into the prison where he will perform his first execution. El verdugo shows that the biting black humor that we have come to associate with Buñuel is, in more general terms, a Spanish characteristic.

Berlanga's irreverent treatment of death is symptomatic of a tendency found in all of his movies—to poke fun at pomposity and pretensions, and to deflate generally accepted values and beliefs. At the same time that El verdugo is highly entertaining, it also has a message that was vaguely subversive in Franco's Spain in the early 1960s. In one sense, the movie is about two outcasts, the undertaker and the executioner's daughter, both of whom are avoided by everyone. When they join together, it is with the hope of having a better life. But as Berlanga demonstrates, these hopes cannot be realized. Like other Berlanga protagonists, the undertaker becomes caught up in a destiny which he did not choose. He is a victim of innocent concessions made along the way that ultimately lead him to be sentenced to his fate of becoming the executioner. He is the true victim, the one who is strangled in a web of circumstances beyond his control, caught up in the system of justice and retribution that is all encompassing. In the context of Franco's Spain, the ideological dimensions of this message are clear. As the executioner tells his son-in-law, where there's a law, someone has to enforce it; someone has to do the dirty work. Perhaps that was Berlanga's way of saying that in a dictatorial regime, whether they are willing or not, men are coerced into aiding and abetting the status quo.

—Katherine Singer Kóvacs

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Re: Luis García Berlanga

Post  Guest on Fri Nov 25, 2011 12:13 am

Full movie with English subtitles here (poor quality):


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Re: Luis García Berlanga

Post  Guest on Fri Nov 25, 2011 12:52 am

Vera Cruz wrote:Even the actual mode of execution is the subject of morbid jokes as the executioner, who garrots his victims, measures the neck size of his future son-in-law.

La hija del verdugo: Yo me voy a las rebajas a comprar ropitas para el niño... ah y camisas para ti. Oye ¿qué número usas?
The executioner's daughter: I'm going sales shopping to buy clothes for the baby... oh and shirts for you. Hey, what size do you use?
El yerno del verdugo: No me acuerdo
The executioner's son-in-law: I don't remember
La hija del verdugo: No te acuerdas... Padre, ¿qué número tiene de cuello?
The executioner's daughter: You don't remember... Father, what is his neck size?

The executioner takes a glance at his son-in-law's neck

El verdugo: Un cuarenta y uno
The executioner: Forty one

min 0:42

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Re: Luis García Berlanga

Post  Guest on Thu Feb 02, 2012 4:23 am

Vera Cruz wrote:Welcome, Mister Marshall!
It is a movie about a Castilian town through a grotesque hilarious look (as well as with The Executioner). They hear of Mister Marshall and they believe he is going to visit them to economically help them. So they prepare the town to receive him. They think Americans will expect to find a "typical" Spanish town so they redecorate the whole town as if it was Andalusian and adopt Andalusian culture. They even make a wish list, as if they were expecting Santa... and it's also funny to see what each of them wishes to have.

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Re: Luis García Berlanga

Post  Guest on Thu Feb 02, 2012 4:54 am

Vera Cruz wrote:El verdugo (The executioner) was the eighth feature film written and directed by Luis García Berlanga in collaboration with his longtime associate, Rafael Azcona.
Rafael Azcona was a great screenwriter.
Among a lot of movies, he wrote for these two, El pisito (The little flat) and El cochecito (The little car), that are not directed by Berlanga but by Marco Ferreri.

"Azcona's first movie success, El Pisito ("The little flat", 1959), based on his own novel and directed by the Italian Marco Ferreri, tells of a man who longs to set up home with his young fiancée, and finds what he thinks is the perfect solution by marrying a sick old lady so he can inherit her flat."

"In another early film, El Cochecito ("The little car", 1960), also directed by Ferreri, an irascible man who covets the electric wheelchair of a handicapped friend robs and poisons his family to get one himself."

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Re: Luis García Berlanga

Post  Guest on Thu Feb 02, 2012 5:10 am

Pepe Isbert plays the roll of


the major in "Welcome, Mr Marshall!" (Berlanga)



the old executioner in "The executioner" (Berlanga)



the old "man who covets the electric wheelchair of a handicapped friend robs and poisons his family to get one himself" in "The little car" (Ferreri)

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Re: Luis García Berlanga

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