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Monday, January 28, 2013

Luis Garcia Berlanga ¡Bienvenido, Mister Marshall! (1953)

The little village of Villar del Río is awaiting the song performance of Carmen Vargas (Lolita Sevilla), 'The Great Andalusian Star'. The quiet village is governed by a deaf, naughty and good-natured Mayor (José Isbert in an uforgettable role), who's only seeking the way to give life to the place. By the same time good news comes to the village: the arrival of North American high personalities that will give economicanal aid to the nation city by city, village by village. The Mayor doesn't know what to do to welcome them. Carmen Vargas's agent (Manolo Morán) throws surprising initiatives, moving all the village people just to prepare a better reception for the foreigners. His idea is to disguise all the farmers as Andalusians and add colour to every street with typical decorations. All of them start to work, and also to dream and think about what they're going to request the Americans, who will come with lots of dollars. The day of the arrival everybody at Villar del Río is in the streets...

Is it a western (à la Don Pablo, el alcade, who dreams at playing the cowboys versus sheriffs)? Or is it a movie about all dangers that come with these Americans (as Don Cosme, el cure, thinks, while expecting anyway a new church bell from those sinners)? Or is it a folkloric movie, with music and dances and hats and frocks and all that Andalusian stuff (with Carmen Vargas, la Reina de las canciones, leading the show)? Is it a historical movie about conquistadors (à la Don Louis, el cabalero)? Or is it maybe a neorealist movie (à la Bardem)? A black comedy (à la Berlanga)? Just a piece of fun (anonymous opinion)?

Well, many good things have been said about ¡Bienvenido, Mister Marshall!. Let me add here my own share. First of all it's refreshing this movie, it was made with youthful enthusiasm, as both Berlanga (director and co-scenarist) and Bardem (co-scenarist) were barely twenty and something years old. One of them was twenty-one, the other twenty-two. It's the courage to make total mockery in the way only youngsters do. That mockery that's apparently mild, while not forgetting anything and anyone. And above mockery this movie is a piece of poetry, as both Berlanga and Bardem actually love these guys that are the target of their fun. These are poor guys, living in a universe of their own and judging the Americans expected to come and to give gifts  as belonging to a comparable universe, while the real distance is as of thousand years. And so these guys from Vinar del Rio are condemning the Americans (for not being Catholics, rather Protestants, or Indians that simply forgot they had been ruled sometime by Spanish Conquistadors), they are debating whether to accept the American gifts or not, eventually everyone dreaming at an American gift. Basically they care about Americans, the way they expect that also Americans do care for them. Only these Americans live in a universe too far to care. Oh, I know very well this sentiment of waiting for the Americans to come, it's not only restricted to Vinar del Rio, and it's not only restricted to 1953.

(Luis García Berlanga)

(Juan Antonio Bardem)

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