Every day I pass two or three times in front of the plaque that recalls on the façade of 29 Calle Alonso Cano in Madrid that the filmmaker Luis García Berlanga lived there between 1947 and 1962, making three of his main films there. : Welcome Mister Marshall, Placid Y The executioner. Berlanga would have turned 100 today, if he lived, so it is logical that he remembers it.
In the movie pages of the newspapers I suppose that there will be numerous articles today pondering his work and his career and analyzing it with much more authority than I do, but I want to highlight here the importance that Luis García Berlanga has for me as an interpreter of a country that seems to he invented but in reality he limited himself to portraying as all great authors do. The Berlanguian gaze, which many of his followers speak of and which is heir to the best Spanish and Baroque tradition, the one that goes from Quevedo to Valle Inclán passing through Solana and many others, but also of Italian neorealism, has already been incorporated into our essence to the point that it seems that it is reality that imitates his cinema and not the other way around. It happens only with some chosen ones and Berlanga was without a doubt, so it will remain in time even when his films are barely understood because the circumstances in which they were shot have changed substantially or what they tell is already an anachronism. Like Cervantes, Goya or Buñuel, Berlanga created an imaginary of ours in which more or less all Spaniards recognize ourselves.
This year, numerous books have been published analyzing the work of Luis García Berlanga to celebrate his century of life (although the director died in 2011, his cinema is still alive in his films) and he has even returned to the present day as a result of his heirs open the safe of the Cervantes Institute in which he deposited three objects with the order to be opened on the centenary of his birth. One of them, the script of Long live Russia!, which would have been the fourth part of his saga National, It reminded me of Berlanga’s presence in the documentary by José Luis López Linares and Javier Rioyo Foreigners of themselves, in which he evoked his enlistment in Franco’s Blue Division and his campaign in Russia together with the Germans and in which he met Luis Ciges, the imperturbable supporting actor who would later accompany him in all his films and to whom I listened to the best definition of hunger that I have never heard: recalling the harshness of the years of the Blue Division, Ciges said without moving a muscle after Berlanga tried to describe it based on verbiage without succeeding: bread and we looked at bread! … “
Berlanga. Life and cinema of an irreverent creator, by Miguel Ángel Villena, The last Austro-Hungarian. Conversations with Berlanga, by Manuel Hidalgo and Juan Hernández Les, or Goodbye Mister Berlanga! of his friend and my friend Luis Alegre (this one illustrated by El Marqués), are some of the titles that I recommend today to those who read this to celebrate the centenary of the filmmaker who best portrayed this country in the last half century and the one who best understood that you can’t take it seriously because you get depressed. Much better to laugh at him.