A movie log formerly known as Bookishness / By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

The Executioner (Luis García Berlanga, 1963)

Nino Manfredi (second from left) in The Executioner
José Luis Rodríguez: Nino Manfredi
Carmen: Emma Penella
Amadeo: José Isbert
Antonio Rodríguez: José Luis López Vázquez
Álvarez: Ángel Álvarez
Director of the prison: Guido Alberti

Director: Luis García Berlanga
Screenplay: Luis García Berlanga, Rafael Azcona, Ennio Flaiano
Cinematography: Tonino Delli Colli
Art direction: Luis Argüello
Film editing: Alfonso Santacana
Music: Miguel Asins Arbó

The scene shown above comes near the end of The Executioner; it takes place in the antechamber to the room in which a prisoner will be strangled to death by the machinery of the garrote. But the man struggling against his fate is not the prisoner, he's the executioner. The prisoner is in the small group at the upper right of the frame, moving resignedly toward his death. Although it's a scene to inspire horror, beautifully staged by director Luis García Berlanga and shot by cinematographer Tonino Delle Colle, it's the deliciously ironic climax to a very funny film. Tone is everything, and García Berlanga deftly maintains a kind of buoyancy in his treatment of the predicament of José Luis Rodríguez, the film's extremely reluctant executioner, who has managed to maintain his composure up to this point by denial. How he got into this situation is the bulk of the film, and how his denial has brought him to this point is also the setup to the kicker at the film's ending: Having performed his grisly duty, José Luis vows never to do it again. Whereupon his father-in-law, the former executioner whose job José Luis has been forced to assume, tells him that's what he said the first time he had to do it. How can we laugh at this? We do because García Berlanga has cozened us into accepting the unacceptable, just as the state cozens us into accepting capital punishment. It's a tour de force of a film, a comedy that dares us to laugh and keeps making us do it.

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