- Pons, Ventura
- (1945- )Very few filmmakers in the world today can boast an output as steady and wide-ranging as Ventura Pons. He has been making movies since 1978, but only hit his stride when he set up his own production company, Els films de la Rambla, in the mid-1980s. Since then, his stories have grown in complexity, depth, and maturity. He came from the theater, and it has remained one of his recurring interests. Many of his films are stage play adaptations (Actrius [ Actresses, 1997 ], Amic / Amat [ Friend / Beloved, 1999 ], Barcelona (un mapa) [ Barcelona: A Map, 2007 ]), and most of them feature theater actors, particularly from Catalonia. His birthplace is also a distinctive aspect in his work.Pons was born in Barcelona, and no director has done more to show the city's many faces. In a way, his work can be approached as a poem to Barcelona: her moods, her people, her architecture. His first film, Ocaña: Retrat intermitent (Ocaña: An Intermittent Portrait, 1978), was a documentary (with inserted dramatized sequences) about a colorful gay Andalusian artist who became a denizen of the world of the Ramblas. Because of Pons' interest in the artist as performer of identity, Ocaña was not simply one of the most articulate expressions of gay discourse in Spanish film, but also a reflection on the Transition as a time for the reemergence of repressed feelings and identities. During this period, he shifted between theater (he directed the Catalan version of Harvey Firestein's Torch Song Trilogy) and film, specializing in vaudeville-inspired comedies (Que te jugues, Mari Pili? [ Wanna Bet, Mari Pili? 1991 ], Aquesta nit o mai [ Tonight or Never, 1992 ]) with large casts, consisting mainly of character actors and plots based on confusion of identity. This represented very well the Barcelona that rose to international recognition around the time of the Olympics in 1992: a progressive city, gorgeous, full of possibilities, and sexually relaxed. In the mid-1990s, his vision became progressively darker, and he showed an increasing mastery of film technique as he delved deeper into a range of vehicles.Actrius was a comedy-drama starring the three greatest divas of Catalan theater playing roles very close to themselves: Núria Espert, Rosa Maria Sardá, and Ana Lizarán. His films of the late 1990s are ambitious, earnest, and aesthetically substantial. Caricies (Caresses, 1998) and Amic / Amat were a return to network narratives, but where once there was simply fun, now he found emotional depth. Caricies is a series of short sketches, in the style of Arthur Schnitzler's La Ronde, about Barcelonians seeking intimacy. Amic / Amat featured a towering performance by Josep Maria Pou as a homosexual facing death. Formally, Pons' films were also becoming increasingly varied. Returning to his roots, he directed a series of dramas that used hand-held camera and a degree of gritty realism in the style of John Casavettes, like Morir (o no) (To Die [ or Not ], 2000) and Amor idiota (Idiotic Love, 2004). Anita no perd el tren (Anita Does not Miss the Train, 2001) was another collaboration with Rosa María Sardá and became an international hit in the festival circuit. But he could shift to a different key, as with the elegant, polished, softly lit comedy of manners of Food of Love (2002), based on David Leavitt's novel The Page Turner. In 2003, he came back to documentary with El gran gato (The Great Gato, 2003), about Gato Pérez, one of Barcelona's most distinctive musicians. After two interesting but flawed dramas (Animales heridos [ Wounded Animals, 2006 ] and La vida abismal [ The Abysmal Life, 2007 ]), he returned to form with Barcelona (un mapa), which showcases the best of his cinema: intense performances shot with close-ups (again Pou, Espert, and Sardá) and an investigation of the complex identity of his hometown.
Historical dictionary of Spanish cinema. Alberto Mira. 2010.