All cinemas were for me
Manuel Polo and Jesús Macías are the stars of Todo lo contrario. These ninety-somethings are what you could call film buffs, although unknowingly, because they would never think in those terms, but they use scenes from films to show us what they are thinking or they flesh out ordinary memories with movie memories. They lived during that time and in that world when cinema, the only art form that has been genuinely popular, had an all-pervasive presence; you worked, ate, slept, went to the cinema, just one more thing in the everyday flow of life. This programme came about from a meeting between them and a voluntary film buff, someone who started out at the end of that time and of that world.
Following many conversations and films that the involuntary and voluntary film buffs mentioned and noted, respectively, it was whittled down to six. Manolo’s and Jesús’s tastes are filtered through another taste. Six examples of the talent accumulated in Hollywood during the golden age of the big studios. Six seminal movies, six true works of art and sources of aesthetic (and ethical) pleasure. Six ethical and (aesthetic) hypotheses whose characters mutate, with the torment and pain and excitement of change; they find out who they are and discover their inner desires through chance meetings, reunions, disagreements. And Manolo and Jesús, who saw them, perhaps get to discover something about themselves and about others through them, recognising themselves in them. And perhaps we will too.
The titles already give us a clue to the (dramatic) weight that falls on women, dealing with their adventures and their freedom. After Captains Courageous we could ask ourselves “How can you grow up without losing your childhood?” and answer, thanks to It Happened One Night and The Awful Truth, “by letting fantasies of love lead to companionship, seriousness to improvisation, humour and fun”. But you can still hear a voice saying: “Yes, ok, but… What happens if we are women light years away from the standard, or if certain relationships place us in danger?” That’s where the queen, the pirate and the voyager have something to say.
Passing on this experience, at once intimate and shared, digging up those dead who are still very much alive in the minds of non-experts, helps to understand the overwhelming influence and presence of cinema, when it offered an opportunity for sentient learning every day, a gift for the eyes everyday for everyone. Every week, Jesús, a hairdresser since he was practically a boy, would go through the programme and choose the movies he was going to see, without bothering to take into account how near or how far away the cinema was from his home-hairdresser’s: “Whether it was in Tetuán or Vallecas, it didn’t matter, I went anyway. All cinemas were for me”.
SUNDAY 24 JANUARY
Captains Courageous, Victor Fleming, 1937.
English with subtitles in Spanish, 116 min.
Presented by Manuel Polo.
Freddie Bartholomew and Spencer Tracy. A young boy from a very well-off family, who we could imagine twenty years older on the board of directors of some company destroying the lives of others, will discover that the world is more than his own home, and he will make his entrance into public life thanks to his friendship with a “Portuguese” fisherman. The fisherman is part of the small crew that rescues him from drowning at sea. From his father’s yacht to a fishing boat, how beautiful it is to invent parentage that is not of blood.
It Happened One Night
THURSDAY 28 JANUARY
It Happened One Night , Frank Capra, 1934.
English with subtitles in Spanish, 105 min.
Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable. A physical and sentimental pre-Code road movie. Running away from her father, a young heiress and socialite bumps into a newspaper reporter who has just been fired. They team up together and make a comic duo who learn together as they cross the USA during the Great Depression. And so, she too will discover a world that is not just her home and he will discover that you can fall in love with someone who is completely real.
The Awful Truth
SUNDAY 31 JANUARY
The Awful Truth, Leo McCarey, 1937.
English with subtitles in Spanish, 91 min.
The great 1930s screwball comedy about equality between men and women, with the dream actor and actress hitting it off and conscientiously honing their comic skills. The premise is simple, open to any possible outcome: at the beginning of the movie Irene Dunne and Cary Grant are a married couple who initiate divorce proceedings and spend the rest of the movie incapable of going through with it, and unable to resist their mutual attraction. A spectator doesn’t know how much joy they can stand until they see The Awful Truth.
THURSDAY 4 FEBRUARY
Queen Christina, Rouben Mamoulian, 1933.
English with subtitles in Spanish, 97 min.
Greta Garbo bigger than life and John Gilbert. Pre-code, which in this case means that the Queen of Sweden goes through life bisexually and we see it all on the big screen. In addition, the hunger for a world outside the walls of the royal palace lead her to spend half the movie dressed in men’s clothing. The happy sexual encounter with a “Spanish” diplomat gives her unexpected freedom and the possibility of imagining herself as a commoner, as an other.
Anne of the Indies
SUNDAY 7 FEBRUARY
Anne of the Indies, Jacques Tourneur, 1951.
English with subtitles in Spanish, 78 min.
Jean Peters, Louis Jourdan and Debra Paget. Here the bitterness in the shadow of Queen Christina, the bitterness often entailed in remaining true to oneself in a man’s man’s man’s world, comes to light, where an outwardly happy sexual encounter will transform the rough pirate known as Captain Providence into a woman. And she will pay a high price for it. A few questions: Who invented the typical girl? How can you endure a betrayal without betraying oneself? What is love capable of, not the love of a man or a woman, but the love of a pirate?
THURSDAY 11 FEBRUARY
Now, Voyager, Irving Rapper, 1942.
English with subtitles in Spanish, 117 min.
Presented by Jesús Macías.
Bette Davis and Paul Henreid. A story of emancipation, the story of the ugly duckling meets Walt Whitman (if your dreams don’t come true on dry land … go to sea in search of them). Subjectively ugly, objectively rich, dominated by her mother, after several adventures and a man who lights cigarettes two by two, the main character begins to wake up, to break free and to trust in herself. She will trust so much that her trust may mean that a younger person, a fellow woman, can also learn to trust. A woman’s fate is not written.