Neorealism


Neorealism
   The ending to the original (dubbed) Spanish version of Vittorio de Sica's Bicycle Thieves (1948) included a voice of hope that was meant to counterbalance the grimness of the original. This not only underlines the problems neorealism encountered under Francisco Franco's regime, but also shows the very real difficulties of any kind of approach that did not follow the official government version of Spain as a nation with no major problems. It was not easy for Spanish cultural authorities to explain their reluctance to allow neorealism to be introduced into Spanish cinema. Of course, some of the movement's leading creators were communist or at the very least Left-wing, but there was also a Catholic and conservative trend apparent in the movement.
   The earliest attempts to assimilate the lessons of neorealism into Spanish cinema was Surcos (Burrows, 1951), directed by José Antonio Nieves Conde, a film not dissimilar in plot to Luchino Visconti's later Rocco and His Brothers (1960): in both, a family from the country comes to a tenement house in the big city and find their hopes dashed against the inhumanity of urban life. The realist impulse was loaded with warning against progress, and ideologically it was closer to Falangism than to a working-class perspective, but at last Spanish film had dared to deal with social reality. The same year, Edgar Neville similarly used a realist approach to bemoan the disappearance of traditional lifestyles in El último caballo (The Last Horse, 1950).
   The neorealist model was too influential to be ignored, and although its basic honesty was frowned upon by the authorities, some of its social awareness could be felt in films by Juan Antonio Bardem, particularly Cómicos (Comedians, 1954) and Calle mayor (Main Street, 1956). Rather than De Sicca or Visconti, he chose to be influenced by Federico Fellini: the latter is very close in atmosphere to I vitelloni (1953). Some other films used ideas of neorealism, although social critique was almost absent. Ladislao Vajda's Mi tío Jacinto (Uncle Jacinto, 1956) is among the best examples of a balance between social concerns and sentimentality.
   One of the adaptations of a neorealist cinema in Spain would be to infuse it with black humor. Disguised as comedy, and pushed to absurdity, realism could be better assimilated. One of the master practitioners of this trend was Marco Ferreri, who did a few satiric comedies in the late 1950s: Los chicos (The Kids, 1959), El pisito (The Little Flat, 1959), and El cochecito (The Motorized Wheelchair, 1960). This is the kind of approach Luis G. Berlanga would also follow in his two masterpieces: Plácido (1962) and El verdugo (The Executioner, 1964). Although both remain comedies, he learned from neorealism an awareness of reality as a social construct. Neorealist inspiration was also used effectively by Carlos Saura in 1960 in a film entitled Los Golfos (The Lazy Guys, 1960). The realist impulse continued strong in Spanish cinema after the main neorealist period had ended.

Historical dictionary of Spanish cinema. . 2010.

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