Spain in non-spanish film


Spain in non-spanish film
   In ¡Bienvenido Mr. Marshall! (Welcome, Mr. Marshall! Luis G. Berlanga, 1953), a group of Castilian villagers pretend they are Andalusians so that they can appear more worthy candidates for assistance from the Marshall Plan committee. This is a good allegory of how Spanish identity has been portrayed abroad, to become attractive (or merely marketable). Spain, with Italy, was always a part of the mythical South. Given the authority and cultural centrality of northern Protestant discourses, Spaniards were represented as "others." In the imagination of 19th-century travelers, Spain was mostly Andalusia, and the Alhambra in Granada was a symbol of the country's inherent exoticism. Another signifier of the Spanish ethos was bullfighting: purportedly cruel, colorful, and violent, this entertainment came to represent ancestral rituals. Whereas Italy was identified with the Renaissance, and writers could therefore look at it in terms of an alternative civilization, Spain was unruly, violent, dangerous, backward. The fact that Spanish intellectuals like Luis Buñuel or even Federico García Lorca came back to those bold images only strengthened these ideas in the first half of the 20th century.
   The second thematic strand in the way foreigners saw Spain has to do with sensuality and, more specifically, with sex. One of the most enduring (and most often retold) stories with a Spanish background is Carmen, a story of passion. In spite of a strict moral agenda enforced by Church authorities in the country, an unrepressed and dangerous sexuality was always part of the representation of Spaniards abroad. The brooding Rodolfo Valentino played a Spaniard in The Four Horsemen of Apocalypse (Rex Ingram, 1921), and he played a bullfighter in the silent version of Blood and Sand (Fred Niblo, 1922). A garish 1947 color reworking of the latter, directed by Rouben Mamoulian, featured Tyrone Power and Rita Hayworth as the sultry Doña Sol. Spanish otherness was also recurrent in some classic Hollywood musicals, as represented by the temperamental flamenco performer. Two important Hollywood films of the 1950s (both by Joseph Leo Mankiewickz) have important sections set in Spain, and sensuality is featured prominently in both: in The Barefoot Contessa (1954), the Ava Gardner character, a Spanish dancer, represented some essential sexuality in her promiscuity; the climactic flashback of Suddenly, Last Summer (1959), also took place in a village on the Spanish coast (Cabeza de Lobo), which was at the time a favorite destination for sexual tourism. This image of a backward, sensual country lingered in narratives during the 1950s and even into the 1960s, particularly given the isolationist policies adopted by the Franco governments.
   When the time came to open the country to foreigners, as the ¡Bienvenido Mr. Marshall! plot device suggests, authorities decided that the image could be used in terms of picturesqueness to attract tourists. In many ways, this clashed with the conservative ideologies being imposed on Spaniards, but it was good marketing. After the Transition came a process of "Europeanization" of the country, but aspects of the old stereotypes have remained useful in providing Spanish culture with a recognizable repertoire of images. In a way, Pedro Almodóvar could be seen as emblematic of this "new image." The sensuality, exoticism, and colorfulness associated with Spanish culture remains in his films, but the negative implications have disappeared.

Historical dictionary of Spanish cinema. . 2010.

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