Abril, Victoria


Abril, Victoria
(1959- )
   Victoria Abril's vocation as a performer was evident since childhood, and her early career resembled that of thousands of other star-struck girls. As a teenager, she trained to be a dancer and a singer, but it was cinema that beckoned: in 1974, she made her debut in Francisco Lara Polop's Obsesión (Obsession). She has returned occasionally to her first vocation (claiming that acting is "too easy" when compared to other performing arts). Two years later, she could be glimpsed in an early cameo in Richard Fleisher's Robin and Marian, an international production shot in Spain. In 1976, she became a stewardess in a hugely popular television contest (Un dos tres . . . Responda otra vez) every Friday night. During this period, a publicity stunt about getting married against her mother's wishes made her into a household name.
   In 1977, she was chosen by Vicente Aranda for a starring part in Cambio de sexo (Sex Change), a film in which she played a shy boy, José María, who undergoes a sex change. It was a courageous choice, the first in a long series of collaborations with the director, which has lasted more than 20 years, and an early sign of her dedication to her acting career. Her continuing roles for Aranda in the 1980s defined her screen personality and revealed a versatile actress, committed to exploring the dark side of human existence, as evidenced by her willingness to take on highly charged sexual scenes, a key aspect of her collaboration with Aranda. She matured as an actress in titles like La muchacha de las bragas de oro (The Girl with Golden Knickers, 1980), La noche más hermosa (The Most Beautiful Night, 1984), Tiempo de silencio (Times of Silence, 1986), El lute (1987, which earned her a best actress award at the San Sebastian Film Festival) and, most importantly, Si te dicen que caí (If They Tell You I Fell. . ., 1989). If, in the early titles, she could be taken for just one more "destape" actress (her predominant quality at the time was a certain innocence, and her artistic name translates as "April") trying to extend her range, the last title was an astounding tour de force in which she played a prostitute used and brutally humiliated in Barcelona's post Civil War underworld.
   In 1989, Pedro Almodovar, who had recently ended his professional relationship with Carmen Maura, chose Abril as the protagonist for ¡Átame! (Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!, 1990), in which she played a drug-addicted porn actress. This role opened the door to a glittering international career during the 1990s. The steely determination and sheer power that characterized her roles of that decade were also demonstrated in Amantes (Lovers, 1991), one of Aranda's biggest hits, in which she played a sexually predatory woman who seduces innocent Jorge Sanz and destroys his and his fiancee's lives in the process.
   Abril had been taking roles in France and Italy since the early 1980s (for instance, she was in Jean-Jacques Beineix underrated La lune dans le caniveau [ The Moon in the Gutter ], 1983), but it was only a decade later that she became a recurring presence in European film. She even attempted a Hollywood career (Jimmy Hollywood, 1994) but was reportedly unhappy with the conditions; her appearances in American films have been very rare. Her roles for Aranda continued, with Intruso (Intruder, 1994), a film that Aranda saw as a reworking of Amantes in a different social context, and Libertarias (Freedom Fighters, 1996), where she accepted a supporting role. She also played two more roles in Almodovar films: the teary, vulnerable, wounded daughter of the diva in Tacones lejanos (High Heels, 1991) and the trashy TV presenter Andrea Caracortada in Kika (1993), one of the few of his characters Almodovar openly despised.
   Another milestone in her career was her Gloria (yet another prostitute) in Nadie hablará de nosotras cuando hayamos muerto (No One Will Talk about Us When We Die, Agustín Díaz Yanes, 1995), a raw, painful performance that earned her a well-deserved Goya award and, again, the San Sebastian Film Festival Silver Seashell. In the film, Abril plays the wife of a paralyzed bullfighter who struggles to escape poverty by any means possible, getting into trouble with international criminals and supported by her mother-in-law, Pilar Bardem.
   Abril's international career continued strongly into the 1990s and 2000s, in titles as varied as Gauzon Maudit / French Twist (Josiane Balasko, 1995), playing a spunky housewife who discovers the joys of bisexuality, La femme du cosmonaute (The Astronaut's Wife, Jacques Monnet, 1998), and 101 Reykyavik (Baltasar Kormákur, 2000). In those films, she became more a character actress, comfortable taking on substantial supporting roles. Other striking performances of the 2000s include Díaz Yanes' Sin noticias de Dios (No News from God, 2000) where, cast against type, she plays a good angel against devious Penélope Cruz (and got the chance to show her skills as a cabaret diva); Incautos (Miguel Bardem, 2004), and a short but intense part as a revengeful country woman in Carlos Saura's rural drama El séptimo día (The Seventh Day, 2004). In 2008, she collaborated again with Díaz Yanes, playing again the resilient Gloria Duque involved in a robbery with three other women in Sólo quiero caminar (I Only Want to Keep on Walking). She has won an impressive list of European prizes, including the Silver Bear for Amantes and the 2002 Outstanding European Achievement in World Cinema award.

Historical dictionary of Spanish cinema. . 2010.


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