Berlanga's life from Berlanga behind the cameras

The censors used to say that you had to be especially careful with Luis García Berlanga (Valencia, 141), a director who “takes a shot of two priests walking along Gran Vía and make it look like they are coming from Pasapoga ”. With his talent for portraying Spain as a tragicomic country, he spun so fine that, no matter how much scenes were mutilated, his films still breathed satire. There were not enough cuts that contained what, over the years, would end up being defined as Berlanguiano and academics would include it in the RAE dictionary.

On the centenary of its birth, Spanish cinema has turned to celebrate one of its greatest geniuses with a career that, at times, was more Berlanguian behind the cameras than in front of it. Come, see and take the opportunity to test your knowledge about the director and his cinema with a couple of questionnaires that give the measure of how he managed to disguise any daily tragedy as comedy and wit.

International success, fights and a lot, a lot of censorship

When Bardem and Berlanga ended up pricing (and Pepe Isbert rebelled) . Juan Antonio Bardem had collaborated in the script of Welcome Mr. Marshall ( 1953) and planned to co-direct it with the same system that had worked so well for them in their joint debut, That happy couple (1951): Bardem, in charge of dealing with the actors and Berlanga as the most technical director. But Bardem left the production company that both had founded and the Valencian limited himself to giving him a salary for his services as a screenwriter to separate him from the film completely. This “betrayal” generated unease among the workers: in fact, Berlanga remembered the filming of Welcome Mr. Marshall as “a horror”. The technical and artistic team and the actors rebelled against him, led by Pepe Isbert (who would later be his friend and fetish actor). Berlanga felt “despised and ridiculed” and during the complicated scene the paratrooper came to blows with the camera operator.

When Berlanga ended up in a dungeon in Cannes. The team of Welcome Mr. Marshall He traveled to the Cannes festival with some promotional dollars with the faces of Pepe Isbert and Lolita Sevilla stamped. They could not think of anything else to see if they sneaked in, and they tried to exchange them at the casino in the French city. Discovered, they were accused of counterfeiting currency and arrested, the filmmaker said. Meanwhile, the president of the jury, the American actor Edward G. Robinson, was in a rage demanding the elimination of a plan of the flag of his country dragged by the mud. Robinson came from betraying colleagues with communist affinities in the witch hunt promoted by US Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy, and the government had awarded him the presidency of the Cannes jury. In the end, Welcome Mr. Marshall won two awards (screenplay and comedy) and was left without Palme d’Or, according to it said, because Robinson had not passed the displeasure.

Everything that eliminated the censorship of ‘Thursdays, miracle’. The film is about the living forces of a people (the mayor, the teacher, the businessman and the doctor) who invent a miracle to attract tourism. But in the middle of filming, the producer had no idea other than to sell his company to some businessmen linked to Opus Dei. References to Fatima, people praying in soccer, any scene with civil guards or the image of Pepe Isbert disguised as the false Saint Dimas appeared. They even hired another director, the legendary series B filmmaker Jorge Grau, to shoot additional scenes and exchange dialogues in the dubbing room. On 1994 The original copy of was found. On Thursdays, Miracle (1957) uncensored in a Belgian cinematheque whose restored version, complete with the sound of another copy found in Prague (Czech Republic), can now be enjoyed on the Spanish film platform FlixOlé.

How much do you know about Berlanga?

Check your knowledge here and discover great anecdotes I

Question from

Who said the phrase “As your mayor that I am, I owe you an explanation. And I’m going to pay for that explanation ”?

Juan Antonio Bardem

Luis García Berlanga

Miguel Mihura

The most emblematic phrase of the film appears in the second version of the script, written alone by the playwright.

Next question ➔

Who did Berlanga offer the leading role in Novio a la vista?

To Romy Schneider

To Brigitte Bardot

To Jean Moreau

Berlanga wanted to hook her up in Cannes, but the producer refused to delay filming for a week “because of that stranger.”

Next question ➔

How many pages was the censor’s report for ‘Miracle Thursdays’?

Berlanga, half joking Half seriously, he proposed that Father Garau (the censor) appear credited as a co-writer.

Next question ➔

Why did Berlanga reduce the role of Manuel Alexandre in ‘Calabuch’?

He seemed unfriendly

The actor felt uncomfortable with his character

They ran out of money

The producer cast the closure and had to roll running what they could to finish it. That included the scenes with Alexandre.

Next question ➔

Why did ‘That Happy Couple’ take two years to premiere?

Not interested no distributor

Bardem and Berlanga (both directors) did not agree

Nobody saw potential in this “little movie about ordinary people ”. It was released after the success of Welcome Mr. Marshall.

Next question ➔

You score is:

Do you want to try again?

From touching the sky to having the Italian feminists against

When William Wyler did levitate Berlanga. He said he went to Hollywood in 1962 knowing that, despite the Oscar nomination as a non-English-speaking film by Placido (1961), the Oscar was going to go to Like in a mirror by Ingmar Bergman. “Of course, only pensioners went to foreign film screenings, and suddenly I was surrounded by the great classical directors: Zinnemann, Ford, Von Sternberg. William Wyler wondered how he had shot the scene of the car of the dead going up the hill. It is the best moment of my career, the only one in which I felt I levitate ”, confessed Berlanga excitedly.

What Franco thought of Berlanga after seeing ‘The Executioner’. This black comedy tells the story of a young man who starts in the job to which his father-in-law has dedicated his life: to end that of the convicted prisoners to dead. It was selected by the Venice festival and when the Spanish ambassador in Italy Alfredo Sánchez Bella saw it (who aspired to get the position of Manuel Fraga as Minister of Information and Tourism) he proposed to destroy all the copies. How could they not see the parallels with the government? Franco had just ordered three executions and the international press nicknamed him “the executioner.” Although Sánchez Bella tried to withdraw it from the festival, the film won the critics award, after which the ambassador bragged about it, proclaiming it as an example of the freedom that artists enjoyed in Spain. On the Spanish billboard, The executioner (1963) lasted two weeks due to pressure from the authorities . And when Franco saw her, he exclaimed: “I know that Berlanga is not a communist. It is something worse: he is a bad Spaniard ”. The filmmaker would go four years without being able to direct. Sánchez Bella achieved her ministry.

Why ‘Natural size’ was promoted as pornography in the UK. When censorship prevented the filming of the third part of his saga “against women”, To my dear mother on the day of his saint , Berlanga received a proposal to shoot in France an argument from Jean-Claude Carrière, the screenwriter of Luis Buñuel: Natural size (1973). In it, a misanthrope locked himself with an inflatable doll to fulfill the male fantasy of having company that did not speak. The Italian feminists cracked several screens on which it was projected, which was such publicity for the film that Italy was the only market where it operated commercially. In Spain, it was the last of the “Perpignan films” to be released, those films that the Spanish were going to see in the south of the neighboring country. In London they tried to sneak it as porn, although the closest thing to a sexual scene is the gang rape of the doll, perpetrated by Spanish immigrants in France.

How much do you know about Berlanga?

Put your knowledge to the test again and discover more anecdotes II

Question from

Why did some foreign viewers leave the screenings of ‘Plácido’?

They did not understand the subtitles

They were offended by sacrilege

They found poverty in bad taste

Berlanga loved that several characters spoke at the same time, which made it impossible to subtitle correctly.

Next question ➔

What removed the censorship of ‘El executioner ‘?

References to going to Germany

The hint of a violation

Jokes about hell

Suffered 14 cuts, including the plane of the face of the condemned to death (Manuel Alexandre) or the trial of the vile stick.

Next question ➔

What was Berlanga’s first color film?

Long live the bride and groom!


The teacher’s dream

He hated color but, by trying to imitate Mariano Ozores’ sitcoms that were sweeping the box office, he had to emulate his aesthetics.

Next question ➔

What was the original title of ‘The Boutique’?

Nothing ever happens

The piranhas

The burrow

The original title of The boutique ‘ was The piranhas in reference to the figures of the woman and the mother-in-law. It was a criticism of matriarchal society

Next question ➔

Where did the ‘Life Size’ doll come from?

From a Japanese sculptor

From a sex shop from Almansa

I was imitating Romy Schneider

It took a year to make and cost 10 millions of francs. “The same as Brigitte Bardot charged”, Berlanga used to say.

Next question ➔

Why is ‘A tram for sale’ a half-length film?

It was the episode of a censored series

Ran out of funding

gray closed the shoot

The rogues was to be a series about the scam. Berlanga signed Rafael Azcona as a scriptwriter because he had loved El pisito.

Next question ➔

Your score is:

Do you want to try again?

Berlanga uncensored and an unpublished script kept in a box

The inspiration for ‘The national shotgun’. During the Franco regime, the hunts were the excuse for the shenanigans of favor among the powerful and one of them came in 1961 the newly appointed Minister of Information and Tourism Manuel Fraga. The Galician had never wielded a gun in his life, so he accidentally shot the dictator’s daughter, Carmencita Franco, in the butt. “That day I had the misfortune to give a safe lead, be it the part to the Marquise de Villaverde. A low partridge that passed between the two gave rise to the monumental error ”, explained Fraga in his memoirs. As soon as democracy arrived, Berlanga took the opportunity to make a film set in those hunts that he had not been able to portray at the time.

The script what it took 50 years to shoot. He came up with the story of La vaquilla (premiered in 1985) at the end of the years 30, while fighting in the Civil War in Zaragoza when he was just a teenager. Returning from the Soviet Union in the early years 40, where he fought with the Blue Division to free his Republican uncle from jail, sat down to write the script. I wanted to tell the “daily life of war”, without heroism or passionate ideologies.

The censorship rejected the script three times. He read it even Franco, a curious movie buff, but said it was too early to make a movie like that. In the 80 showed it to Azcona, who encouraged him to resume the project. With 300 million pesetas (1.8 million euros) of budget, it was once the most expensive film in Spanish cinema. But when it doubled it in collection, it became the highest grossing in the history of the national filmography up to that moment.

The most ‘traveling’ complicated of his filmography. “They repeated it to me so much that I came to believe that my cinema was characterized by dazzling sequence shots. So in National Heritage [1981] I decided to ride the longest of all: nine minutes ”, explained Berlanga. The shot surrounded the entire palace of Linares, in Madrid, and lasted as long as a celluloid roll allowed.

The director tried to outdo himself in the third part of the saga, National III (1982), with an even more difficult. It was an almost impossible logistical challenge: a seven-minute shot that followed José Luis López-Vázquez from the moment he got out of the taxi, they mounted him on a stretcher and put him through the narrow corridors of a train in the North Station (now Príncipe Pío). ). It did not succeed, despite having the first steadicam operator in Spain, a technology that facilitates image stability through a system of counterweights while the camera moves.

When the Jijona nougat makers withdrew their money from ‘Moros y Cristianos’ . After the success of La vaquilla, Berlanga had carte blanche for the first time in his career, so He decided to pay homage to his land, Valencia, combining the Moors and Christians festivities and the Jijona nougat. In this satire on the influence of modern advertising, he brought together all the comedians of the time to play a group of nougat makers who travel to Madrid to hire a publicist to promote their products. The nougat artisans of Jijona gave Berlanga a book on the history of nougat from which the director took a piece of information for his script: that this sweet entered Spain through Catalonia. Those from Jijona not only withdrew their investment in the film, but also ended up in lawsuits. Although Moors and Christians (1987) has many fans, Berlanga said it was the only one of his films with which the Criticism had agreed: it scared them all the same. On the contrary, with the following, All to jail (1993), would win his only Goyas: best film and best director.

What’s inside box 1. 034. The Instituto Cervantes de Madrid, on Calle de Alcalá, has safe deposit boxes in the basement vault because its headquarters previously belonged to the Central Bank. In them, figures of Spanish culture deposit a legacy that can only be opened on the date that the artist chooses. On 2008 Berlanga left one of these time capsules, with the number 1. 034, which was opened on 11 June 2021, as the director left had indicated to commemorate its centenary.

There has been much speculation with its content. Is it a last message for Spanish society? Some memories? An unpublished script? Finally, the script of Viva rusia! , signed by Rafael Azcona, Berlanga, his son Jorge, has come out of the box and the journalist and writer Manuel Hidalgo. and that represents the fourth part of the national trilogy that could not be shot due to the death of actor Luis Escobar, whose last installment was Nacional III .

At the opening ceremony of the box, family members, such as their grandchildren, and friends, such as José Sacristán and Mónica Randall, were present and songs from their films and pasodobles performed by the Valencian band Societat Musical La Eslava. The treasure is exhibited in Berlanguiano , the exhibition about the filmmaker, organized by the Film Academy with the support of entid ades like FlixOlé, at the Real Academia de San Fernando – a few meters from the Instituto Cervantes, but on the opposite sidewalk -, which will tour several cities in Spain during the rest of the year. Along with the script, two publications about his work have appeared: a French magazine about The Executioner and Against Power and Glory , the biography about the filmmaker, written by Antonio Gómez Rufo. Paradoxically, although the title of this last Berlanga made it clear that he was not interested in glory, he has not been able to escape from it.

All the films of the Valencian director can be seen in the Berlanga Collection of FlixOlé

These movies are available in restored version and HD on FlixOlé, except ‘That happy couple’ and ‘Moros y Christians’ who will join the platform soon.

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