Filmoteca Española inaugurates an overwhelming exhibition that shows the creative process of the Bilbao director through story boards, drawings, designs and props material from his films
It is convenient to stop at a video at the beginning of the exhibition ‘Álex de la Iglesia. Cinema as one of the Fine Arts’, which the Minister of Culture Miquel Iceta inaugurates this Tuesday in Madrid’s Palacio del Marqués de Perales, one of the headquarters of the Spanish Film Library (Magdalena Street, 10). In it, images of the Holy Week in Bilbao alternate at the end of the 80s, the processions passing through La Palanca, with the festive scattering that was lived in the Safi Gallery, at number 4 of Cortes street. The Safi lasted two years and there coincided the most subversive and creative elements that the director used when he began to make films. No exhibitions were held, no entry was charged, nothing was sold. The ‘performances’ always led to wild parties. In Marcos Ordóñez’s book-conversation ‘The beast is loose’, De la Iglesia recalls a colleague hanging upside down from the ceiling, with a portable television tied to his genitals, broadcasting a children’s program. While ‘King Kong’ was being projected in the bathroom, in the living room they shouted fire! because a set was starting to light up. One defecated in a fish bowl, another bathed in a basin of milk and honey.
The script for ‘The Day of the Beast’, with graphics and annotations from the director.
But what is interesting about the video in the first major exhibition dedicated to the career of the Bilbao filmmaker, open until January 16, is how that obsession with imagery and the meaning of Holy Week is maintained in films like ‘Perdita Durango’, which contains a crucifixion, or in his recent series for HBO ’30 coins’, of which props are exhibited such as the crown of thorns of Jesus Christ, the nails with which he was crucified and, of course, the thirty coins of Judas . «The exhibition shows that Álex has not changed so much in these thirty-odd years, he remains faithful to his obsessions. He continues to be a cartoonist and all his films are born from drawings ”, certifies Arturo García, alias Biaffra, artistic director of the De la Iglesia films together with José Luis Arrizabalaga, curator of the exhibition and one of those ‘performers’ of the Safi in my early twenties. “They were quite crazy years in which we did things without any commercial vocation, what’s more, we only lost money,” he recalls. “Until we came to Madrid.”
Arturo García, alias ‘Biaffra’, artistic director of Álex de la Iglesia’s films and curator of the exhibition. /
Biaffra and De la Iglesia met when they were 14 years old at the Museum of Artistic Reproductions in the capital of Biscay, where they went to receive drawing classes and take notes on the natural statues. The first studied Fine Arts at the UPV and the second Philosophy at Deusto. They were united by their love for comics and movies, which they devoured in the Cinematheque of the Museum of Fine Arts and the Cineclub Fas. This frenetic and unprejudiced activity is witnessed by the exhibition by the Spanish Film Library, which recovers comics and fanzines by the director in the space entitled ‘Bilbao, 1988’. Like ‘Savage Command’, strips starring brainless terrorists published in ‘Gaur Express’, a newspaper that ran for seven months in 1989, and which have the same acid look at terrorism as ‘Mutant Action’. Or ‘Burdinjaun’, a Basque superhero born when a former Altos Hornos unionist and pelotari is thrown into a foundry. Or ‘La Cosa de la Ría’, a monster that lives under the waters of the Nervión and that appeared in the pages of ‘La Ría del Ocio’. A photograph with a very young De la Iglesia filming his first short film in Super 8, ‘North by Northwest’, attests to his desire to make movies, which grew after taking care of the set design of ‘Todo por la pasta’, by Enrique Urbizu.
The story boards, drawings and designs of the exhibition remind each step of the great cartoonist who stopped making comics to make films. «Alex fills the scripts with drawings. He can send you a fax with a caricature or draw you on a napkin so that you understand perfectly what he wants. Another thing is that it can be carried out ”, explains Biaffra, who admits that he would not be dedicated to this profession if it were not for the author of ‘The community’. Among all the shootings, the one of ‘Perdita Durango’, the adventure in Mexico and the US of the director, stands out as especially hard. And the one of ‘The day of the Beast’. “We had already done ‘Mutant Action’, where we dared with flying saucers, special effects and a big budget. But in ‘The Day of the Beast’ for the first time we were aware of the weight of what we were doing, almost all of us ended up at odds ». De la Iglesia presents this Saturday at the Sitges Festival ‘Veneciafrenia’, a film that hits theaters on November 26. But he has already shot another one, ‘The fourth passenger’, which brought him to Bilbao to close the circle that began with ‘Mutant Action’ almost thirty years ago.
The demon’s mask in ‘The Day of the Beast’ is on display at the show. /
“Alex is happy on the set,” says Biaffra. «They do not like preparations and it is becoming more and more impatient, you notice it in the annotations that it gives you quickly. He has several projects at the same time and then there is his role as a producer ». His reputation for being tough on the set is not gratuitous. “Let’s say you’re demanding to say something soft,” laughs the artistic director. «Álex is very loyal and always surrounds himself with the same people. It takes you to the limit, but that’s fine. ” The Madrid exhibition is a feast for moviegoers, who can stop at the creative process of each film through the story boards, musical scores, photographs or promotional material. From the clapperboards that the director himself made for ‘Mirindas asesinas’ to the carnival masks for ‘Veneciafrenia’, through publicity works or projects that did not come out, such as ‘Fu-Manchú’ and the series of films about El Santo. “The carnival chaos of life, the most grotesque face of the human being, the History of Spain as a party and a tragedy”, are the main themes of a filmography that changed the face of Spanish cinema and is summarized by Jordi Sánchez-Navarro in the catalog of the sample.