Film journalist Anita Haas and her co-author Carlos Aguilar recently attended a unique film festival in Spain. Anita filed this report report exclusively for Cinema Retro:
The lovely and talented Caroline Munro is honored on stage. (Read Caroline's columns in issues #2 and #6 of Cinema Retro) (All photos copyright Anita Haas and Carlos Aguilar. All rights reserved.)
The Festival Internacional del Cine Clásico de Granada Retroback is the perfect opportunity for nostalgia and reminiscing, for discovering, and rediscovering and all in the marvelous surroundings of one of Spain’s most beautiful and historic cities. Brainchild of its young director, David Lopez, the festival takes place in the last week of January, nicely breaking up the long, dark winter. With an explosive opening night concert by Monica Mancini (daughter of Henry Mancini), eleven retrospectives, three exhibitions, two publications, and fifteen special guests, including actors, directors and writers, this brand new festival has started life with a bang!
David Lopez, Eugenio Martin and Carlos Aguilar.
The late Audrey Hepburn was the “fairy godmother” for this first edition, represented in the festival by her sons Sean Hepburn Ferrer and Luca Dotti, who rang in the event by bringing an exhibition of the actress’s life and personal objects including international posters of her films, her two Oscars, and Givenchy’s dresses from Breakfast At Tiffany’s and Sabrina, two of the films which formed part of the retrospective.
Exhibitions were not limited to Audrey Hepburn, however. Accompanying the retrospective of Italian Fantasy films, was Graziano Marraffa's poster and lobby card collection, with the original drawing of the Italian Diabolik poster, signed by John Phillip Law himself. The display proved to be a terrifying taster before late-night screenings of 60’s genre trailers and films like Black Sunday with gothic horror queen Barbara Steele, The Secret of Dr. Hichcock, Blood and Black Lace, They’re Coming to Get You, Asylum Erotica with the disturbing couple Klaus Kinski and Margaret Lee, Footprints On the Moon, Frozen Terror, and Don’t Torture A Duckling to name a few. The Perfume of the Lady in Dark, a psychologically thriller reminiscent of Repulsion, was introduced by its director Francesco Barili. The prolific Pupi Avati also attended the festival to introduce La Casa dalle finestre che ridono, and the master of Italian horror, Dario Argento, presented Suspiria, his most emblematic piece from 1977. All three directors received placques in honour of their contribution to the seventh art.
Carlos and David with Pupi Avati
To top off the section, Quatermass, an extensive anthology of Italian Fantasy films, was launched during a round table discussion with its publisher Javier G. Romero, and ten specialists in the field from both Spain and Italy.
A tribute that was very special for both me and my husband, Carlos Aguilar, was the one in honour of our late friend, John Phillip Law and one of the highlights of the week for me, was finally meeting Caroline Munro, every bit the charming lady I was told she was. She came to introduce The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, receive an award, and help us launch our book John Phillip Law: Diabolik Angel. Thank you Caroline!
Caroline Munro joins Carlos and Anita for a discussion about their book celebrating the career of John Phillip Law.
Another special tribute for us was in honour of another good friend, the veteran Spanish director Eugenio Martin, subject of the main festival publication Eugenio Martin: Un autor por todos los generos, written by Carlos Aguilar and me. Martin, a former resident of Granada, boasts a career of over forty years in the business. As the title of our book implies, this man has made films in almost all the genres. His better-known titles include the western The Ugly Ones, starring Tomas Milian, and Horror Express with genre giants Christopher Lee, and Peter Cushing as well as their acting antithesis Telly Savalas. Martin introduced his uniquely Andalusian horror film A Candle for the Devil, starring British actress Judy Geeson, and in which Martin’s wife, the Danish actress Lone Fleming, plays a lightly-clad, soon-to-be-murdered tourist in the darkly Catholic Andalusia of the Franco regime. Martin didn’t shy away from social comedy either, in his parody of the extreme left-right politics of the Spanish Civil War, the amusing Tengamos la Guerra en Paz. He also introduced his two earliest works, the semi-autobiographical Despedida de Soltero, with the unforgettable Spanish actor, Pepe Isbert, and Viaje Romantico a Granada, a 1956 art documentary (dedicated to Washington Irving); a filigree based on engravings of 19th century artists from beyond the Spanish borders who evoked the city in their pictures and writings.
Carlos Aguilar and David Lopez interview the famous director Dario Argento.
Besides several well-known Hollywood classics, Spanish cinema was also well represented by “Other Spanish Classics”. This section consisted of a group of eight little-known gems selected especially for their unjust obscurity. Fulano y Mengano by Joachim Romero Marchent, better known for his westerns, Jess Franco’s first film Tenemos 18 Años, Diferente a very camp musical from the sixties, and the weird and claustrophobic El Extraño Viaje formed part of it. On a more international level, the great Frederico Fellini was represented by five of his masterpieces (La dolce vita, Eight & Half, etc), along with George Franju, whose film Judex was introduced by French actor and scriptwriter Jacques Champreaux. Other retrospectives included the French director Jean-Pierre Melville (The Red Circle) and the Japanese director Kaneto Shindo (Kuroneko). And lastly, “Once Upon a Time”, is a section comprised of films along the decades. This year being 2009, it started with The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1919), and finished with Woody Allen’s Manhattan from 1979, coming in just before 1980, the year the festival has chosen as its cut-off date.
And what’s in store for next year’s line-up? Rumour has it that … then again, maybe it is better to get your information straight from the horse’s mouth at www.retroback.es, because if you like Cinema Retro, you’ll like Retroback.
(Click here for John Exshaw's review of the John Phillip Law book)