“With its original and stimulating theoretical framework, Refiguring Spain complements other recent work dealing with Spanish cinema and media while giving new impetus to these studies.”— Victor Fuentes, University of California, Santa Barbara
Refiguring Spain: Cinema/Media/Representationby Marsha Kinder
In Refiguring Spain, Marsha Kinder has gathered a collection of new essays that explore the central role played by film, television, newspapers, and art museums in redefining Spain’s national/cultural identity and its position in the world economy during the post-Franco era. By emphasizing issues of historical recuperation, gender and sexuality,/i>/i>… See more details below
In Refiguring Spain, Marsha Kinder has gathered a collection of new essays that explore the central role played by film, television, newspapers, and art museums in redefining Spain’s national/cultural identity and its position in the world economy during the post-Franco era. By emphasizing issues of historical recuperation, gender and sexuality, and the marketing of Spain’s peaceful political transformation, the contributors demonstrate that Spanish cinema and other forms of Spanish media culture created new national stereotypes and strengthened the nation’s place in the global market and on the global stage.
These essays consider a diverse array of texts, ranging from recent films by Almodóvar, Saura, Erice, Miró, Bigas Luna, Gutiérrez Aragón, and Eloy de la Iglesia to media coverage of the 1993 elections. Francoist cinema and other popular media are examined in light of strategies used to redefine Spain’s cultural identity. The importance of the documentary, the appropriation of Hollywood film, and the significance of gender and sexuality in Spanish cinema are also discussed, as is the discourse of the Spanish media star—whether involving film celebrities like Rita Hayworth and Antonio Banderas or historical figures such as Cervantes. The volume concludes with an investigation of larger issues of government policy in relation to film and media, including a discussion of the financing of Spanish cinema and an exploration of the political dynamics of regional television and art museums. Drawing on a wide range of critical discourses, including feminist, postcolonial, and queer theory, political economy, cultural history, and museum studies, Refiguring Spain is the first comprehensive anthology on Spanish cinema in the English language.
Contributors. Peter Besas, Marvin D’Lugo, Selma Reuben Holo, Dona M. Kercher, Marsha Kinder, Jaume Martí-Olivella, Richard Maxwell, Hilary L. Neroni, Paul Julian Smith, Roland B. Tolentino, Stephen Tropiano, Kathleen M. Vernon, Iñaki Zabaleta
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Cinema / Media / Representation
By Marsha Kinder
Duke University PressCopyright © 1997 Duke University Press
All rights reserved.
KATHLEEN M. VERNON
Reading Hollywood in/and Spanish Cinema: From Trade Wars to Transculturation
When one talks of cinema, one talks of American cinema. The influence of cinema is the influence of American cinema.... For this reason, every discussion of cinema made outside Hollywood must begin with Hollywood.—Glauber Rocha
Mixed in with 1993's steady stream of press reports on the resurgence of nationalist aggressions in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union came a series of news stories noting the outbreak of a less violent, perhaps, but to some commentators equally troubling, form of Western European cultural nationalism provoked by proposals to include the audiovisual sector—that is, film, television, and radio productions—in the upcoming international free trade accord known as GATT. Though the talk of economic and artistic crises among European national cinemas was nothing new, the combined stimuli of the GATT threat to eliminate various national subsidy policies and screen quotas that had kept French, Italian, and Spanish cinemas (barely) afloat against the ever rising tide of a U.S.-dominated multinational film industry and the impending European release of the Spielberg behemoth Jurassic Park provoked a vitriolic war of words between a number of influential European directors and their American counterparts that spilled from the pages of the trade publication Variety to the foreign affairs coverage of the New York Times.
Although this essay in some sense represents a response to the current crisis as well as to its historical roots, it is by no means a study of the influence or, rather, domination of Hollywood cinema over the European or Spanish film industries. In the case of Spain, that story has been told in detailed economic and political terms in books such as Santiago Pozo's La industria del cine en España, Manuel Vázquez Montalbán's La penetración americana en España and, most recently, in the epilogue to Marsha Kinder's Blood Cinema. Nor is it, strictly speaking, a study of the influence of the representational modes of Hollywood, understood somewhat monolithically as "classic narrative cinema," on both cinematic creation and reception in Spain. Rather than the "real" of American cultural-economic hegemony, I am interested here in the strategie uses of American film in constructing an alternative "imaginary" in opposition to dominant cultural practices in Spain.
Thus, I base my study in the analysis of the intertextual presence of Hollywood cinema, in the form of "direct quotations" or film clips, in a selected number of Spanish films. I will argue that these transnational juxtapositions have provided a space in which to construct an oppositional imaginary of resistance, initially against attempts by an official Francoist cinema to impose a self-serving national imaginary modeled by the repressive religious and militaristic values of the regime, and that later, after Franco's death, this interface of cultures and discourses continues to offer an opportunity to speak from (and listen to) the margins, to question the dominant fictions that have shaped Spaniards' views of their present as well as their past. The potential repertory of Spanish films that employ these intertextual quotes includes, surely not coincidentally, some of the most historically and aesthetically significant films made in Spain since the end of the Civil War: from Lorenzo Llobet Gràcia's Vida en sombras (Life in Shadows, 1947-48), Luis García Berlanga's Bienvenido, Mr. Marshall (Welcome, Mr. Marshall, 1952), and Víctor Erice's El espíritu de la colmena (The Spirit of the Beehive, 1973) and El sur (The South, 1983) to Pedro Almodávar's ¿Qué he hecho yo para merecer esto! (What Have I Done to Deserve This!, 1984), Matador (1986), Mujeres al borde de un ataque de nervios (Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, 1988), Manuel Gutiérrez Aragón's Demonios en el jardín (Demons in the Garden, 1982), Pilar Miró's Beltenebros (1992), and Francisco Regueiro's Madregilda (Mother Gilda, 1993). And their respective American intertexts, Rebecca (Alfred Hitchcock, 1941), genre films (Western and film noir), Frankenstein (James Whale, 1931), Shadow of a Doubt (Alfred Hitchcock, 1943), Splendor in the Grass (Elia Kazan, 1961), Duel in the Sun (Charles Vidor, 1946), Johnny Guitar (Nicholas Ray, 1954), and Gilda (Charles Vidor, 1946), for their part, provide a cannily representative roster of classic Hollywood film history.
One possible, and intended, consequence of this type of approach to what have generally been treated as closed systems, discreet national cinemas—Spanish versus American—is to challenge our understanding of the way global mass culture operates today and thus to restructure the terms of the debate. Whereas trade war rhetoric reaffirms the center-periphery model of American cultural colonialism, the focus I am proposing seeks to foreground a process of transcultural exchange, producing new readings that question the underlying ideological assumptions of both cultures. My intention is to read these films in their intertextuality as instances of a process of "semiotic layering," a concept I borrow from Maureen Turim, who defines it as "the accrual and transformation of meaning associated with an artifact as it passes through history, or as it is presented in different versions." The advantage of this notion of semiotic layering over more familiar accounts of literary and filmic intertextuality is that the former explicitly allows for the intervention of extratextual discourses and effects of reception, some of which adhere to the original text and others that result from their transmission through history, and, in this case, across national/cultural boundaries. Thus I seek to recover the meaning and function of the Hollywood intertexts in their original cultural, historical, and generic context as well as to analyze the new meanings produced via their recontextualization within certain Spanish films, each with its own specific historical and cultural circumstances.
Due to limitations of space, as well as to the focus of this volume, I will restrict my analyses to three "cases" chosen from among the list of films I cited earlier, one from the Francoist period and two from the group of films made since the death of the dictator and the return of Spanish democracy. The focal point of the first part of my study, Berlanga's Bienvenido, Mr. Marshall, shares with two of the other signal films from different ends of the Franco era, Vida en sombras and El espíritu de la colmena, a capacity for converting the escapist value of Hollywood genre pictures (the Western and film noir, the "woman's picture," and the horror film, for the three films respectively) into a form of strategic leverage that served to liberate both films and filmmakers from the constraints of Spanish commercial cinema's industrial and cultural apparatus. Then, in the second half of the essay, I turn to two different but related examples of the use of Hollywood intertexts in the post-Franco cinema. I begin with an investigation of American intertexts in the films of Pedro Almodóvar, certainly the most celebrated "international" Spanish filmmaker of the period. Focusing on ¿Qué he hecho yo para merecer esto! I explore how the director's manipulation of multilayered cinematic sources works to expose the persistent legacy of Francoism despite the willed, postmodern break with the past otherwise evinced by his cinema. My study closes with a more extended analysis of the function of a single intertext, the mythic 1946 film noir Gilda, starring Rita Hayworth in the title role, in three Spanish films from the '80s and '90s. Here I demonstrate how Hayworth's extrafilmic and transnational "star image" is exploited to subvert stable notions of gender and national identity and to provide for a paradoxical reencounter with Spanish history.
Beyond the Dream Machine: Bienvenido, Mr. Marshall
According to Peter Besas, Berlanga's brilliant 1952 comedy Bienvenido, Mr. Marshall began as commission for an españolada, a folkloric comedy featuring primarily Andalusian dance and singing, typical of the government-supported products of the period. While technically fulfilling the conditions of the film's producers—a setting in Andalusia and four musical numbers for newcomer Lolita Sevilla, sister of the established españolada star Carmen Sevilla—Berlanga and his co-scriptwriters, Juan Bardem and Miguel Mihura, concocted a double-edged paean to the illusionistic power of cinema that is at the same time a wicked critique of the Spanish film industry and the regime that supported it.
While the title makes reference to the Marshall Plan dollars Spain was never to receive (although its pariah status among Western democracies was soon to come to end with the 1953 Convenio granting the U.S. access to Spanish military bases), a more central theme of the film is the reach of Hollywood into the hearts and minds of even the most isolated inhabitants of a small Spanish town. The plot involves the town's preparations for the arrival of an American delegation, that, according to the delegado general and his band of Spanish bureaucrats announcing the visit, are sure to reward their Spanish hosts with cash and gifts. At the urging of the government officials, the mayor, don Pablo, and Manolo, the impresario and manager of the flamenco star performing at the town's café, concoct a script to transform their Castilian village of Villar del Río into a movie-set version of Andalusia, precisely the tourist poster image of Spain promoted by the españolada.
As in El espíritu de la colmena some twenty years later, the social function of moviegoing and the preference for American genre films over the homegrown product is documented in the townspeople's attendance at the weekly movie—usually a Hollywood Western, we are told—in the town hall. Given the shape of Spanish film production in the '40s and early '50s, this rejection was understandable. Dominated by the tendentious didacticism of patriotic epics on one hand, and by the nostalgic evocation of a harmonious rural existence of eternal Spain in the españolada on the other, the regime-backed film industry left Spanish audiences easy prey for the clearly more alluring Hollywood imports. Indeed this rejection of domestic cinema is thematized in the film. Carmen Vargas (Lolita Sevilla), the visiting "songbird of Southern Spain" hired by the mayor and café owner, performs in parallel scenes that mirror the Spanish audience's attitude toward the genre. During Vargas's first musical number, the café's clientele are quiet and her song's completion is met with attentive applause. But by the time of the second on-screen performance, several sequences later, the café-goers talk through her number and the applause is almost nonexistent.
A similar, interiorized representation of spectatorship within the text is the key to the film's most celebrated sequence, a series of four movie-like dreams within the film. Decades earlier the surrealists had explored the parallels between the dream experience and film viewing, and Bienvenido makes that connection comically explicit. The activity of movie-going is characterized by the film's voice-over narrator as enabling or authorizing wishing and dreaming. Even the narrative chronology, in which the extended dream segment follows the townspeople's exit from Villar del Río's makeshift movie theater, confirms this linkage. Furthermore, at the conclusion of the last of the four dreams, the narrator comments on the dreamer's wish for a happy ending, noting that "all movies and dreams end like that." As this association makes clear, movies, like dreams, are not simply a form of escapism, but rather a means of indirect expression of thoughts censored by the conscious mind—or by a repressive government. Nevertheless, these filmic intertexts do provide a form of escape for Berlanga to move beyond the confines of an ahistorical formula film, the españolada, to project a critical vision of contemporary Spanish reality.
Although each of the dreams merits an extended analysis of the way it matches a distinct cinematic style to the expression of an individual character's wishes and fears (unlike Hollywood dream scenes from the period with their conventionalized representation of the dream state, the four dreams assume a clearly marked genre and even national identity, ranging from the Hollywood Western and film noir to the Spanish historical epic and the Soviet social [realist] romance of the agricultural hero), I will concentrate here on the dream of the village priest, surely the most provocative in its ironic juxtaposition of Spanish and U.S. intertexts. As the film's principal representative of Francoist triunfalismo, the priest from the outset expresses his suspicion of American materialist ideology. His words offer a prime example of what Carmen Martín Gaite has called the celebration of the bendito atraso (the "blessed backwardness" of Spain) as he shuns the promised fruits of American beneficence: "They may have locomotives but we have peace of mind [paz de espíritu]. That will be our gift to them." Later, he interrupts the village schoolteacher's American geography lesson before the town to counter her recitation of U.S. industrial and agricultural production figures (10,000 tons of wheat or pig iron annually and so on) with some statistics of his own, noting the presence of millions of Protestants, Jews, Blacks, and Chinese among the American population. But this condemnation of American religious and racial pluralism will come back to haunt him. For despite his provincial horizons—we are told he has never traveled more than twelve miles from his home village—and rabid anti-Americanism, even his dream reveals the colonizing influence of American cinema.
Opening with a shot of Holy Week penitents marching in black-hooded robes to the cadence of a solemn funeral march, the dream scene lurches into nightmare as a blaring jazz score irrupts on the sound track and the hooded figures, who turn to reveal the initials KKK on their backs, carry off the frightened priest. The next frame places him squarely within the classic mise-en-scène of an American crime drama. In a dark room lit by the harsh glare of a single, swinging lightbulb, the priest, shot from a high angle, cowers under the interrogation of a man identified as a hard-boiled police-detective type by the fat cigar clenched tightly in his teeth. Finally the dream cuts to a courtroom that evokes the German expressionist roots of film noir and where the camera reveals the priest as an even more diminished figure, dwarfed by a black-robed judge mounted on a tall tribunal that bears the inscription (in Spanish): Committee on Un-American Activities. A tape recorder replays his earlier disparaging references to the diversity of American ethnic and religious groups, and as each is mentioned, a black- or white-robed figure rises from the jury box to give him the thumbs down.
This use of film noir, beyond its simple representativeness as a recognizably American film genre, is clearly no accident. Given the form's cultural and historical context and its development in the closing years of World War II and the decade or so after, as the satisfaction over victory turned to insecurity, suspicion, and the anticommunist paranoia of the McCarthy years, it is a fitting irony that the priest's own xenophobic paranoia be expressed in such terms. Furthermore it is precisely the shared American and Spanish fear of communism that has brought the American "threat," in the form of the military base aecord, to Spanish shores.
Postmodernism, Pastiche, and the Return of History: ¿Qué he hecho yo para merecer esto?
In contrast to the privileged intertextual role granted to Hollywood cinema in the films by Berlanga, Llobet Gràcia, or Erice, the eclectic jumble of sources—punk rock, comic book graphics, Latin American boleros, Spanish folklore, and TV advertising, in addition to Hollywood melodrama—characteristic of Almodóvar's films might stand as a defining example of postmodernist pastiche. And whether one grants a subversive or regressive value to such density of intertextual allusion, that crucial enabling role, of Hollywood cinema as the conduit of fantasy and wish-fulfillment inexpressable through more direct means, would appear to be superfluous, as Almodóvar's films, in their celebration of a newly liberated, post-Francoist Spain, flaunt the open expression of desire in all its vectors and forms. What, then, is the function or functions of the direct quotations from Hollywood films, the clips from Splendor in the Grass, Duel in the Sun, and Johnny Guitar, in ¿Qué he hecho yo para merecer esto!, Matador, and Mujeres al borde de un ataque de nervios? As I suggested at the outset, I believe that American cinema continues to play a role in the construction of resistance to dominant discursive practices, both filmic and social. Almodóvar's use of Hollywood cinema allows him to articulate a position on the margins of Spanish social and cultural institutions, one that challenges the validity of master narratives, of whatever ideological stripe, in the representation of past and present realities and the relation between them.
Excerpted from Refiguring Spain by Marsha Kinder. Copyright © 1997 Duke University Press. Excerpted by permission of Duke University Press.
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Meet the Author
Marsha Kinder is Professor of Critical Studies in the School of Cinema-Television at the University of Southern California. She is author of Blood Cinema: The Reconstruction of National Identity in Spain.
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