Martín Patino, Basilio


Martín Patino, Basilio
(1930- )
   Basilio Martín Patino was instrumental in organizing the gathering that would be known as the Salamanca Conversations in 1955. He had been a pioneer in the Spanish Cine Club movement, and founded and edited an important cinephile journal, Cinema universitario.
   He studied at the Instituto de Investigaciones y Experiencias Cinematográficas and graduated with a short that reflected an interest in contemplative realism, Tarde de domingo (Sunday Afternoon, 1960). His ensuing projects encountered various official obstacles, and for four years he turned to advertising. Then, in 1964, he directed Nueve cartas a Berta (Nine Letters to Berta, 1967), his first feature and one of the most representative examples of Nuevo cine español, taking advantage of a new government-sponsored scheme to encourage art film. The story is structured around the letters a Spanish student writes to the daughter of a Republican exile, conveying a sense of frustration with the cultural and social situation in the country. The film, whose mood derives from existentialist literature, represents very well the melancholy, hopeless feelings of the period, the mixture between realism and subtle political reflection, and also the earnestness that marked most films by members of this group. As in other instances, Martín Patino used some visual and narrative devices from the nouvelle vague movement. The film won the Silver Seashell at the San Sebastian Film Festival that year, but then had to wait two more years for release due both to lack of commercial appeal and, paradoxically, distrust from the authorities who had contributed to its funding. Similar difficulties made his next project, Del amor y otras soledades (Of Love and Other Kinds of Solitude, 1969), a frustrating experience, and he moved away from narrative cinema.
   In the 1970s, Martín Patino tackled a series of documentaries on the Franco period. Canciones para después de la guerra (Songs for the Aftermath of a War), made in 1971, was a collage on everyday life during the early postwar. The film provocatively juxtaposed images from the NO-DO newsreels with instances from popular music and other relevant recordings. Censors were suspicious of the ironic tension between triumphalism, documentary reality, and songs, and the film remained unreleased until 1976. Caudillo (Leader, 1977) was a sour reflection on General Francisco Franco and his impact on Spanish life. Queridísimos verdugos (Dearest Executioners, 1977), yet another documentary, was a portrait of a maligned group of civil servants.
   His work during the Transition period continued to demonstrate his interest for historical memory. The most successful feature film of these years was Los paraísos perdidos (The Lost Paradises, 1985), which takes up where Nueve cartas a Berta ended, and presents a character who comes back to Spain after the experience of exile. This was followed by Madrid (1987), another collage film that made a personal discourse out of a collage of images on Spain's capital city. Octavia, made in 2002, was presented as a personal testament (the story is about memory and different factions in Spanish history), and meant a return to Salamanca, the city where Nueve cartas a Berta was set, for an idiosyncratic, meandering reflection on family and the past.

Historical dictionary of Spanish cinema. . 2010.

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