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- 'The Absurd Perspective' by Jose Luis Cuerda
Jose Luis Cuerda
Sadly to say, José Luis Cuerda Martínez, the Spanish director, screenwriter and producer died on February 4. However, his work will remainin the memory (and in the smiles) of his many followers as a key figure in the world of cinema in recent decades. He received numerous accolades among which four Goya Awards, la Medalla de Oro de las Bellas Artes and la Gran Cruz de la Orden Civil de Alfonso X stand out.
There are filmmakers who go down in the history books thanks to a long filmmaking career full of different works. There is also another kind of film directors that, on the basis of a relatively small number of films, has managed to stand out and, what is more important, to have a profound influence on the culture of their nation.
José Luis Cuerda belongs to the second category. It is not that he was the best director in Spanish cinema, nor that he was the one to win most awards, nor the most prolific, but the mere mention of his name or the title of one of his films produces a sincere smile from anyone who knows him. Unfortunately, just two weeks short of his 73rd birthday, the director from La Mancha died, leaving behind thousands of people who admired his absurd humour, his sensitivity in the way he told stories and his intelligence and courage.
José Luis Cuerda represented to perfection the figure of what is commonly known as a Renaissance man. He moved like a fish in wáter in his roles as director, producer, screenwriter, writer, teacher, lover of wine and irreverent talker. There is no doubt that he was a point of reference for various generations and the Godfather of Spanish cinema’s most international director, Alejandro Amenabar, thanks to producing his first three films: “Tesis”, “Abre los ojos”and “Los otros”.
In 1969 he began his audiovisual career making reports and documentaries for TVE. It was not until 1982 that he made his first full feature film ‘Pares y nones’, which was followed by “El bosque animado”, “Amanece, que no es poco”, “La viuda del capitán Estrada”, “La Marrana”, “Tocando fondo”, “Así en el cielo como en la tierra”, “La lengua de las mariposas”, “Primer amor”, “La educación de las hadas”, “Los girasoles ciegos”, “Todo es silencio” and his posthumous work, “Tiempo después”.
But if there is one thing for which Jose Luis Cuerda will be remembered in history, it is for his singular sense of humour, for his love of absurd comedy, and for the irreverence that characterised his dialogues overflowing with political, cultural and, why not, philosophical connotations.
There is no better example of this than the kind of trilogy made up of “El bosque animado”, “Amanece, que no es poco”, and “Así en el cielo como en la tierra”: three films that could perfectly well have been made by those other comic geniuses, Monty Python.
El Bosque Encantado
The winner of five Goya Awards, this film was the first one which featured fantasy comedy. The film tells the story of the rural, farming life of an imaginary village whose inhabitants cross one another’s paths in a living, surreal forest. Every one of its plots is hilarious, but the one that stands out is that of the bandit, Fendetescas, a poor farmer who has decided to attack anyone who comes into the forest. But he has a problem, a spirit that scares travellers away. So the bandit, Fendetescas, has to convince him to go to America with his holy companions (a procession of the dead).
Amanece que no es poco
This film, considered a cult movie, is a twist of the screw in José Luis Cuerda’s tendency for absurd humour. A hilarious ensemble film with a surreal screenplay influenced by the genre’s father, Berlanga, and with a cast of top-notch comedy actors who find themselves immersed in situations of delirious humour in a village in Sierra de Albacete. The story starts when a young Spanish engineer who works at the University of Oklahoma returns to Spain to enjoy a year off. He gets into the sidecar of a motorcycle ridden by his father and the two of them arrive in a remote village in the mountains which, at the beginning, appears to be deserted although in reality all the villages have gone to Mass, in a loop that repeats itself every day of the year. It is an ironic and highly irreverent overview that depicts the most characteristic features, characters and attitudes of Spanish society at that time
Así en el cielo como en la tierra
Once again, another ensemble film in which he takes absurdity and surrealism to their highest levels. The action takes place in Heaven, in Paradise, which turns out to be a copy of the Spanish village where God, Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, St Peter and other characters from the Bible live together in the purest Spanish post-war style of life. In this typically Spanish version of heaven all sorts of absurd plots happen such as when St Peter goes on and on at God to send his son back to Earth for a second time. However, Jesus does not like the idea and convinces his Father that what the world really needs is a good Apocalypse. Not wanting to go against the wishes of his son, God begins the preparations for what will be a spectacular and very Spanish Final Judgement.Read more Close