Aguirresarobe, Javier


Aguirresarobe, Javier
(1948- )
   Javier Aguirresarobe is one of the most inventive, skilled, and widely recognized Spanish cinematographers. In his work, he creates worlds of light that are often unusual, even striking, but also pertinent to the development of fictional spaces. His feature-length debut, came in 1979, after a period of training with Imanol Uribe's El proceso de Burgos (The Burgos Trial), which was only the first in an ongoing series of collaborations with that director. He quickly established himself professionally as photographer for many of the most important Basque films of the 1980s, including La fuga de Segovia (Escape from Segovia, 1981), La muerte de Mikel (Mikel's Death, 1984), La luna negra (Black Moon, 1989), all with Uribe; as well as Eloy de la Iglesia's El Pico II (The Fix II, 1984) and Montxo Armendáriz's 27 horas (27 Hours, 1986). In all of these instances, there is an obvious attempt at literal realism that is in synchrony with the films' social content.
   His work for Pilar Miró's Beltenebros (Prince of Shadows, 1991) signaled the start of Aguirresarobe's mature period, as he moved away from realistic atmospheres into more creative, expressionistic approaches to light and atmosphere. The film's narrative shifted between two periods, the 1940s and the 1960s, and conveyed an impression of Spain as a submerged world, flooded with reflected lighting, muted grays, and washed out-colors, invoking a noir mood. At this point, his style was becoming intensely distinctive (not always a positive aspect of cinematography), and he had become established, together with José Luis Alcaine, as the cinematographer of choice for filmmakers who wanted to devise original light patterns. He collaborated with Juanma Bajo Ulloa in providing an unbalanced sense of space for La madre muerta (The Dead Mother, 1993), again with Uribe for Días contados (Running out of Time, 1994) and Bwana (1996), and then, in a change of key, he conveyed the richness of earth colors in Julio Medem's Tierra (Earth, 1996). His work in the 1990s also includes Secretos del corazón (Secrets of the Heart, Montxo Armendáriz, 1997), Tu nombre envenena mis sueños (Your Name Poisons My Dreams, Pilar Miró, 1996), and a warm recreation of film studio limelight for Fernando Trueba's La niña de tus ojos (The Girl of Your Dreams, 1998).
   Increasingly through these titles, one can appreciate Aguirresa-robe's taste for working with muted light and experimenting with chiaro oscuro, together with a feeling for cold moods and unreal spaces. One of his masterpieces in this sense was Amenábar's Los otros (The Others, 2001), a film in which light is a narrative theme and something of a protagonist. Other films in recent years include Pedro Almodóvar's Hable con ella (Talk to Her, 2002), David Trueba's Soldados de Salamina (Salamina Soldiers, 2003), Alejandro Amenábar's Mar adentro (The Sea Inside, 2004), Armendáriz's Obaba (2005), and a further Uribe collaboration, La carta Esférica (The Nautical Chart, 2007). His international career is also becoming more substantial after his participation in The Bridge of Saint Louis Rey (2004) and Woody Allen's Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008).

Historical dictionary of Spanish cinema. . 2010.

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