Academic journal article Bulletin of Hispanic Studies

Delayed Cinema and Feminist Discourse in Fernando Fernán-Gómez's El Mundo Sigue (1963/1965/2015)

Academic journal article Bulletin of Hispanic Studies

Delayed Cinema and Feminist Discourse in Fernando Fernán-Gómez's El Mundo Sigue (1963/1965/2015)

Article excerpt

It is sometimes tempting to fall into a critical position of lament when addressing the production contexts and film cultures in which certain directors and creative teams worked in Franco's Spain. The production and exhibition history of Fernando Fernán-Gómez's El mundo sigue (1965) is a case study that is particularly susceptible to this approach. In interviews in early, and thus influential, works of Spanish film history like El cine español en el banquillo (Castro 1974: 153-54), and key journals, such as Contracampo (Llinás, Téllez and Vidal Estévez 1984: 70), Fernán-Gómez condemned the treatment of the film. Critics have tended to use these interviews to lament the frustrations - and near futility - of dissident filmmaking under Franco. The details of these frustrations include the director's misplaced optimism on the reappointment of the cinephile and comparatively sympathetic José María García Escudero as Director General of Film and Theatre, with Florentino Soria as Sub-Director, in 1962.1 Mistakenly confident that the now aperturista regime would accept and support the film, Fernán-Gómez presented his previously banned and self-financed adaptation of disenchanted Falangist Juan Antonio de Zunzunegui's 1960 novel, also called El mundo sigue, to the censorship board in 1963.2 While it was originally classified a 2A by the board, after the incorporation of a series of revisions that included cutting scenes of marital intimacy, partial nudity and quotations from religious texts, its eventual classification, in December 1964, was IB. However, this was still so unfavourable that only one distributor bought the film, and its release was limited to the Buenos Aires theatre in Bilbao in July 1965 (Castro de Paz 2010: 218).3 Regarding the lack of nationwide distribution and exhibition Fernán-Gómez, perhaps disingenuously, laments: 'las razones por las que no se estrenó [...] no las entendí nunca' (Castro 1974: 153).

Unlike the notorious cases of films that were banned outright by the regime, such as Luis Buñuel's Viridiana (1961) and Basilio Martín Patino's Canciones para después de una guerra (1971), which were both released following the dictator's death as part of the abolition of censorship in 1977 and 1976 respectively, Fernán-Gómez's film, whose release was restricted rather than banned in 1965, was not re-released until the 50th anniversary of that Bilbao screening on 10 July 2015.4 It became, in Antonio Muñoz Molina's felicitous phrase, the 'película fantasma' of the Franco regime (2008).

Writing in response to this 2015 re-release, this essay avoids the critical position of lament by positively deploying Laura Mulvey's concept of 'delayed cinema', whereby the delay in time between film production and release may in fact bring into focus previously overlooked elements, or, 'some detail [that] has lain dormant' (2006: 8). Previous studies have insisted that El mundo sigue's originality compared to Spain's contemporary Nuevo Cine Español (NCE) lies in its deployment of national cultural influences like the esperpento, astracanada and sainete. This has led to a series of readings that are particularly rich in their textual analysis of Fernán-Gómez's translation of these to film (Pérez Perucha 1987; Zunzunegui 1987, in an analysis that also compares the film to opera; Tranche 1997; Castro de Paz 2010: 176-219). While this study also deploys textual analysis, it does so in order to take the argument in a new direction. It suggests that the rise of feminism over the 52-year 'delay' of 1963-2015 brings into sharper focus Fernán-Gómez's original treatment of gender, and that it is in fact here that we may locate his divergence from the NCE. It also suggests that this treatment of gender connects the film with the contemporary Spanish popular cinema, which was often feminocentric. The article therefore considers the ways in which by feminizing, and thus revitalizing, the well-worn metaphor of Civil War as fraternal conflict, and by exploring desarrollista Spain through female prostitution, and ultimately condemning Francoism through the figure of the stillborn, Fernán-Gómez departs from the androcentrism of the NCE, foregrounds female experience to narrate the nation, and participates in current feminist concerns,5 which anticipate the importance of questions of gender - contested as these still are - in the democratic Spain of the film's re-release. …

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