Desarrollismo comedy


Desarrollismo comedy
   In political terms, desarrollismo is the prevailing political and economic ideology of the mid-1960s in Spain. After two decades of strict austerity imposed by the Spanish support to Fascist regimes during World War II (which prevented Spain from participating in international organizations), measures were introduced to revitalize the regime structures through the introduction of a new generation of "technocrats" who were more concerned with economic progress than ideological integrity. The process started in 1956, but its consolidation was slow and only became a palpable reality in the next decade.
   The promotion of tourism was a key strategy for economic development, but it also presented cultural challenges. A number of contradictions had to be dealt with: how to keep a tight grasp on society (through censorship and penalties for dissident artistic expression) while presenting a friendly face to visitors and potential customers; how to protect the integrity of the regime while letting in as many visitors as possible. Such contradictions are present in most mainstream films of the period, but are particularly articulated in the comedia del desarrollismo or desarrollismo comedy.
   These popular, artistically unambitious stories show an awareness of the need for (and inevitability of) modernity, and take one of two positions. A minority of them focus on the regret for the disappearance of traditional Spanish culture, which was being crushed under modernizing pressures just as dirt roads were transformed into asphalt. These films tend to present an antithesis between rural and urban Spain, which is resolved in favor of the former. Paco Martínez Soria was the star of this variety of desarrollismo comedy in films like La ciudad no es para mí (The City Is Not For Me, 1966), El turismo es un gran invento (Tourism Is a Great Invention, 1968), and Abuelo Made in Spain (Grandfather Made in Spain, 1969), all directed by Pedro Lazaga. In these films, modernity leads to disaster and broken families, and even if one has to end up accepting it as a compromise, they suggest that it is always good to keep some awareness of traditional roots.
   Most of the desarrollismo comedies, however, tried to find a less reactionary balance between the need for modernity and the demands of tradition that could be accommodated by official discourse. Seen today, these films seem to come from a parallel universe for their lack of engagement with social realities as described by historians, and their logic is often hard to follow. Women could now take a more active role and even a narrow range of jobs, but too much feminism was ridiculed. And although access to the workplace was not frowned upon, the best professions were traditionally female ones (maids, nurses, teachers). Technology was slowly accepted: cars and appliances, for instance, had growing visibility and centrality in terms of plots, although characters were often seen grappling with them. The image the country was meant to project was relaxed and colorful, welcoming to visitors, but there was a sharp divide between the baffled and inarticulate, tall blonde foreigners and the average Spaniard. Examples of this strand of desarrollismo comedy are Las chicas de la cruz roja (Girls of the Red Cross, Rafael J. Salvia, 1958), Vuelve San Valentín (Saint Valentine Returns, Fernando Palacios, 1962), Historias de la televisión (Tales of Television, José Luis Sáenz de Heredia, 1965), Sor Citroen (Sister Citroën, Pedro Lazaga, 1967), and the Gracita Morales-José Luis López Vázquez comedies, including Operación cabaretera (Operation Cabaret Singer, Mariano Ozores, 1967), which remains one of the most popular Spanish films ever; Objetivo Bikini (Target: Bikini, Mariano Ozores, 1968); and Operación Mata Hari (Operation Mata Hari, Mariano Ozores, 1968).
   These films never engaged even with the possibility (not to mention aptness) of political change, and sexual freedom seemed to be the only thing that Spaniards envied of countries (one instance of this is Lo verde empieza en los Pirineos [ Smut Begins Across the Pyrinees, Vicente Escrivá, 1973 ]). Toward the end of the period, at the end of the decade, the influence of tourism and foreign films made a certain vision of sex increasingly important. At this point, desarrollismo had completed its cycle, and the central impulse of mainstream films turned to either landismo or tercera vía comedies, depending on whether sex or social change was more prominent.

Historical dictionary of Spanish cinema. . 2010.

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