Ciges, Luis


Ciges, Luis
(1921-2002)
   For some scholars, Spanish cinema's most valuable assets lie not in its directors, but in its character actors.
   Even though they seldom act in starring roles, a strong gallery of supporting performers (including Julia Caba Alba, Chus Lampreave, Amelia de la Torre, Xan das Bolas, José Sazatornil "Saza," Agustín González, and Juan Espantaleón to name a few) have become well established as popular figures for many decades. These actors grace each appearance by doing what, critically, one could only call "their thing," but in a supremely effective way. Their whole careers can be considered one long, rich part, to which they keep on adding subtle variations.
   At the time of his death, Luis Ciges had one of the longest careers in Spanish cinema. Although he only played the protagonist once, in Javier Fesser's El milagro de P. Tinto (The Miracle of P. Tinto, 1998), his first roles date back to 1958, and he appeared in more than 150 films in under 50 years. The list is impressive. Closely associated with Berlanga, he took part in some remarkable titles of the 1960s, including Plácido (Luis G. Belanga, 1962), Young Sánchez (Mario Camus, 1964), and Orson Welles' Chimes at Midnight (Orson Welles, 1965), although his roles in these films were small. He specialized (even when he younger than 40) in playing unprepossessing older men with verbal facility. In the mid-1960s, he became a supporting actor of choice for some Escuela de Barcelona films, like Dante no es únicamente severo (Dante Is Not Only Severe, 1967), Nocturno 29 (Pere Portabella, 1968), Cada vez que . . . (Each Time I. . . 1968), Ditirambo (Gonzalo Suárez, 1969), and Aoom (Gonzalo Suárez, 1970). By then he had become something of a recurrent presence in films by dissident directors, which had certain iconic connotations of relaxed nonconformity and a touch of anarchism.
   These were reinforced in the post Franco period. He kept on turning up to "do his thing" in several Luis G. Berlanga films of the period (Escopeta Nacional [ National Shotgun, 1978 ], Nacional III [ National III, 1981 ], Patrimonio Nacional [ National Heritage, 1982 ], La vaquilla [ The Heifer, 1985 ], Todos a la cárcel [ Everybody to Jail, 1993 ]), and was also used by Eloy de la Iglesia (La criatura [ The Creature, 1977 ]), José Luis García Sánchez (La corte del Faraón [ Pharaoh's Court, 1985 ], Divinas palabras [ 1987 ]), Pedro Almodovar (Laberinto de pasiones [ Labyrinth of Passion, 1982 ], Matador [ 1985 ]), Enrique Urbizu (Todo por la pasta [ All for the Dough, 1991 ]), and José Luis Cuerda (Así en el cielo como en la tierra [ In Heaven As in Earth, 1995 ] and Amanece que no es poco [ The Sun Rises, Which Is Good Enough, 1989 ]). It was only at this point that audiences truly became aware of Ciges; he won the Goya for best supporting actor in 1995 for his first Cuerda film, and this paved the way, finally, for his first starring role. After the success of Fesser's film, he still appeared in Berlanga's París Timbuctú (1999) and Fesser's follow-up to P. Tinto, La gran aventura de Mortadelo y Filemón (Mortadelo and Filemón's Great Adventure, 2003).

Historical dictionary of Spanish cinema. . 2010.

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