José Luis Garci • Director of El crack Cero
"I stay true to what I’ve learned in cinema"
- With El crack Cero, director José Luis Garci, a classic-film enthusiast, returns to the Spanish cinema listings, reuniting with the characters from his 1980s hit El crack
José Luis Garci (Madrid, 1944) is the talk of the town again, after a seven-year hiatus from filmmaking, with El crack Cero [+see also:
interview: José Luis Garci
film profile], a prequel to 1981’s El crack. This time shot in black in white, it brings back the same characters, but played by new actors and imbued with a spirit that is even closer to the classics of celluloid.
Cineuropa: Was it difficult to get this film off the ground?
José Luis Garci: Yes, especially because I’m of a certain age now: I’m now a chap who gets tired easily. When I was young and full of vim and vigour, things were different, but now I’m bored of all that malarkey about broadcasting rights, banks and the ministry. However, what is least tiring is the shoot itself because five weeks just fly by, and I have a marvellous time during the edit. I produced it with José Alberto Sánchez, who took care of that whole post-production process, which is really stressful for me because I’m someone who’s used to the analogue world. Now it’s really hard for me to steer the ship alone.
Those images that appear in El crack Cero, of the Gran Vía in Madrid, lined with so many cinemas – were they filmed in the past and reused for this movie?
Yes, but they’re not archive images; they’re mine. They were shot for other films, such as Alone in the Dark, El crack, El crack Dos, La herida luminosa and so on. We salvaged them, and the ones that were in colour we converted to black and white. Those that were in ‘Scope, like the ones from Tiovivo c.1950, we tweaked to match the format of El crack Cero. It would be impossible for the Gran Vía of today to appear in the film, because back then, there were 14 movie theatres there, whereas now there are only three. Before, it was a cosmopolitan street that reminded you of New York and Times Square, and now it brings to mind Blade Runner, which isn’t such a bad thing, actually.
The Gran Vía has changed, and so has film over the last few decades, but you remain true to yourself. Have you not been influenced by fashion or the passing of time?
No, I’m a child of the films from the 1940s and 1950s, the ones shown in local cinemas. I didn’t go to film school, and I learned the trade by watching Douglas Sirk melodramas, westerns and horror films. My training would now be classed as classical, but back then, it was an education that revolved around the films I liked. I am true to what I’ve learned: it would be absurd for me to make a film using drones because I wouldn’t know how.
El crack and its sequel were filmed in colour. Why did you shoot the prequel in black and white?
Well, in order to talk about a special time, namely the end of an era – the Franco regime – and the start of the transition to democracy in Spain, which was still dragging that whole “No-Do” cinema newsreel vibe along with it. In this prequel, which is a film noir, the atmosphere and the ambiance, and their own unique tone, can be achieved much more easily by using black and white, as it enables you to find your way around the fabrics and the clothes and gives a better texture, not to mention the furniture, the light and the lighting. It casts a particular kind of shadow and helps to recreate the lighting from Scarlet Street or The Woman in the Window.
It’s surprising to see which principles are deep-rooted in your characters, as they reject the mistreatment of women and child abuse... There’s a sentence we hear that goes: “If a crime goes unpunished, the world becomes a worse place”...
Yes. Film noir gives you the opportunity to use these kinds of sentences and dialogue. When I made El crack, I was a big fan of Catalan crime films – movies like A tiro limpio by Francisco Pérez Dolz or the works of Julio Salvador. Those filmmakers inspired me to make film noirs here in Spain.
Do you intend to make any more films?
I don’t dare say anything. It’s looking tricky, so I don’t think so... I wasn’t champing at the bit to shoot a movie. I did a radio programme, where I talked about football and boxing; I’ve written a number of books; I’ve been going for strolls, listening to music and going out for drinks with friends. I didn’t need it, and I didn’t miss it either. This has been the result of a series of happy coincidences, on both a personal and an emotional level. When we were making the TV show ¡Qué grande es el cine!, many people told me that that was how they discovered Michael Powell or Dreyer. What I would like to do now, with this film that’s being released, is to avoid letting down the people who saw that programme: I would like that passion for film that we felt back then to be kept alive, as I’ve made a film that is like the ones I used to watch as a child at the cinema and which used to cheer me up.
(Translated from Spanish)
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