Pere Portabella – Cuadecuc, vampir (1971)

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Synopsis
Cuadecuc, vampir is a dreamlike combination of documentary, narrative, experimental, and essay film styles and is one of the key films of contemporary Spanish cinema. Shot on the set of Jesus Franco’s Italian horror film Count Dracula, and featuring the star of that film, Christopher Lee, Vampir is both a sly political allegory about generalissimo Francisco Franco, a gentle homage to early films about the vampire legend, particularly Dreyer’s Vampyr and Murnau’s Nosferatu, and a work of subtle beauty and great richness. Continue reading

Pere Portabella – Nocturno 29 (1968)

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Synopsis:
Nocturno 29 begins where “Don’t Count on your Fingers” left off: facing a blank screen and the materialness of the projection. It goes in depth into the future Eisenstein-like structure of Portabella’s films which do not advance through a lineal narrative, but rather by a succesion of semi-autonomous scenes and almost always unexpected links. “A series or suite of situations that, although apparently unconnected, always turn about a thematic development that gives body and unity to the story without resorting to the use of an anecdote for plot continuity” (Portabella 1968). Antonioni, Bergman or Buñuel come to mind in this, Portabella’s most “anti-bourgeois” film. Continue reading

Pere Portabella – Die Stille vor Bach AKA The Silence Before Bach (2007)

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“The Silence before Bach” is an approach to music and the trades and subjects that surround it through Bach’s works.
A look at the profound dramaturgic relationship between image and music where the latter is not merely conceived as subsidiary to the image but as a subject of the narration in its own right. The film springs from a previously defined musical structure. The soundtrack feeds on works by J.S Bach and two of Felix Mendelssohn’s sonatas to create an architectural vault beneath which the story of the film unfolds ; a promenade through the XVIIIth, XIXth and XXIth centuries led by the hand of J.S. Bach.
This surrealist cinematic style is then juxtaposed by a sequence of skits, including a truck driver who plays a Bach tune on his harmonica, a butcher who sells a piece of meat wrapped in Bach’s sheet music, and Bach (played by Christian Brembeck) teaching his son to play a piece of music he has written on the keyboard. These episodes pay tribute to the classical musician, while collectively suggesting that modern Europe owes much more to its classical music tradition than we might expect. Continue reading

Pere Portabella – Umbracle (1970)

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Pere Portabella (b. 1929, Barcelona) is a veteran Spanish filmmaker whose narrative features—rich in interludes, plot diversions, atmosphere, and unexpected synchronies between sight and sound—limn the avant-garde and expand the expressive potential of cinema. Portabella, who began his cinematic career as a producer of fiction films implicitly critical of General Francisco Franco, had his passport revoked when Luis Buñuel’s Viridiana (1961), which he helped to make, “embarrassed” Spain at the Cannes Film Festival in 1962. When democracy returned to Spain, Portabella served as a senator in the Catalan government. However, throughout his various careers, Portabella continued to make cinema, investigating meaning in the moving image and flexing the notion of genre—particularly for horror films, fantasy films, and thrillers. Continue reading