La Escopeta Nacional


La Escopeta Nacional
The National Shotgun (1978)
   Luis G. Berlanga's La escopeta nacional (co-scripted with Rafael Azcona) is a clever reworking of Jean Renoir's Rules of the Game (1939), set in the context of the Franco period. Both films share the impulse to articulate a state-of-the-nation group portrait by focusing on a country house gathering, which constitutes a microcosm of bourgeois lives, their dynamics as a class, and their concerns at a problematic point in time. The dramatic excuse is a hunting party, a sport very popular among the Francoist authorities: they were organized as meetings attended by government personalities and were actually used to close business deals and ask for political favors during the period (two other key films in Spanish cinema are based on similar situations: Carlos Saura's La caza [ The Hunt, 1965 ] and José Luis Borau's Furtivos [ Poachers, 1975 ]).
   In Berlanga's film, whose narrative spans a single day, a Catalan industrialist specializing in entry phones (José Sazatornil Saza) provides funds for the gathering, so that he can meet a prominent politician (Antonio Ferrandis) who will grant his company an exclusive contract for official institutions. The event takes place in the property of the impoverished Marqués de Leguineche (Luis Escobar) whose son (José Luis López Vázquez) is an infantile sexual addict. At one point in the film, he kidnaps the model lover of the minister, thus endangering the industrialist's hopes for the success of the whole operation. Another plot event rooted in historical circumstances is the replacement of a generation of Falange politicians with another that were close to the conservative and religious Opus Dei: by the end of the day, there are rumors the politician is going to be dismissed, and the industrialist has to renew his plot to sell his product.
   This was the first film Berlanga shot in Spain without official obstacles after Francisco Franco's death (¡Vivan los novios! [ 1970 ] was typically complicated by the director's reputation as dissident), and only his fourth completed film after El verdugo (The Executioner, 1963), more than 10 years earlier, but it was clearly a continuation of his previous career. Like Plácido (1962), Calabuch (1956), or ¡Bienvenido Mr. Marshall! (Welcome, Mr. Marshall! 1953), the main story was made up of a number of strands using a gallery of characters representative of Spanish society. His use of long, complicated takes had by then become a trademark, and in most scenes, the camera moves among characters, shifting from one plot strand to another. Another element we can trace to Jean Renoir is Berlanga's choice of a certain degree of fuzziness in framings and dialogues (it is often difficult to know who the scene is about), at odds with the cleaner construction of classical filmmaking. The large cast also included Amparo Soler Leal, Luis Ciges, Agustin González, Rafael Alonso, Mónica Randall, Conchita Montes, Bárbara Rey, Chus Lampreave, Félix Rotaeta, and Laly Soldevila.
   Although critics complained of trivial jokes and lack of substance, the exceptional cast and the relevance of the satire made this one of the most successful Spanish films. In two sequels, Berlanga and scriptwriter Rafael Azcona followed the Leguineches through the Transition: Patrimonio nacional (National Heritage, 1981), chronicled their return to Madrid after the restoration of the Monarchy in 1976, and in Nacional III (1983) showed them trying to survive in times of crisis.

Historical dictionary of Spanish cinema. . 2010.

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