Saturday, August 18, 2007

"Muerte de Ciclista" at the Modern Art Museum last night

Four of us involved with the project/play got out to see the only local screening of MUERTE DE CICLISTA, a Franco-era Spanish film, directed by anti-Franco filmmaker Juan Antonio Bardem--during a time of censorship and oppression of resistance in the arts. When, in 2007? No, in the 1950s. But alot of the themes of that period film could resonate strongly today. Both Ramz and I agreed that we would like to see a contemporary remake of this movie.

Hmm, it was Natalia, Ramz, Jennet, and I that saw the pelicula. It was very cool, very good. Done well.

We chuckled quite a bit during some specific scenes depicting hypocrisy, emotional manipulation, and outright scoundrel-ism (yeah, i just made up that word.)...

Thanks to Jennet for the complimentary tickets, thanks to Ramz for the ride.

"In Spanish director Juan Antonio Bardem's lacerating Death of a Cyclist (1955), released in America as Age of Infidelity, a couple traveling through the countryside strike a man on a bicycle. When they get out of their car to examine him, they find that he is injured but not dead. But instead of helping the man, Juan (Alberto Closas) and Maria Jose (Lucia Bosé) do the unthinkable. They flee - rather than reveal that they have been carrying on a long-term affair.

When they return to Madrid, the couple pay a terrible price for their deception. Guilt begins to gnaw away at them, especially at Juan, who is also experiencing conflict with his young students over an ethical issue at the university where he teaches.

Maria Jose is less bothered by the moral implications of killing a man, as she is fearful that her affair will be discovered and her social position slip should her wealthy industrialist husband Miguel (Otello Toso) find out. Matters become even more complicated when the couple discover a member of their social circle, a hanger-on and art critic, Rafa (Carlos Casaravilla), may know something about their affair and the crime and intends to trade on what he knows for money.

Maintaining an intense level of suspense, director Juan Antonio Bardem examines not only the burden of guilt, but also a Spanish society of disturbing schisms where people like Juan and Maria Jose operate above the law, in a bubble of wealth and privilege, while far below people like the dead cyclist's family and neighbors struggle to survive. These themes are further articulated in a haunting musical score by Isidro B. Maiztegui.

Unlike the dominant cinema of the day, Bardem veered away from the militarist, costume dramas and literary adaptations preferred during Francisco Franco's dictatorship. Highly influenced in tone and style by Italian neorealism, Bardem helped bring Spanish cinema to international prominence with his socially conscious and stylish films.

Bardem, who initially trained as an agricultural engineer, would go on to direct a number of other films which often concentrated on a central character named Juan and his disgust with the suffocating society in which he lived.

Death of a Cyclist was hailed by the international film community and became a winner of the International Critics Award at the 1955 Cannes Film Festival. At least one American critic was unable to appreciate Bardem's gift. In an ungenerous and shortsighted review in The New York Times, Bosley Crowther criticized Bardem's unique style in which the lovers are perpetually linked through editing, a self-consciously artful device which Crowther misunderstood as a technical deficiency.

At the time of his Cannes award, Bardem was serving a prison sentence for his political beliefs, until international outcry eventually led to his release from prison. Nevertheless, Bardem was arrested a total of seven times under Franco."

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