- Suárez, Gonzalo
- (1934- )Gonzalo Suárez's surrealistic, almost experimental fictions were brimming with film references and motifs even before he turned to filmmaking. Throughout his career, literature would be a creative framework and theme. His character Ditirambo, the protagonist of some of his tales, was partly hard-boiled detective, partly adventurer, and he explored whimsical worlds. In spite of coming from the north of Spain (he was born in Oviedo), he became one of the most distinctive filmmakers of the Escuela de Barcelona.Suárez's early filmwork shared the same sources of inspiration as his narratives: Kafkian fantasy and detective stories. He started exploring the medium in a series of shorts including El horrible ser nunca visto (The Never-Seen Horrible Being, 1966) and Ditirambo vela por nosotros (Ditirambo Watches Over Us, 1967). His fictional character, played by himself, was also the protagonist of his feature-length debut Ditirambo (1969). Then he announced a series of 10 narrative experiments, starting with El extraño caso del Doctor Fausto (The Strange Case of Doctor Faust, 1969), a personal reworking of the classic story, in which he played Mephistopheles. After the second installment in the series, Aoom (1970), which was never even released in cinemas, the project was interrupted.For a while Suárez turned his attention to straightforward adaptations, like La Regenta (1974), based on Leopoldo Alas's "Clarín" masterpiece; Beatriz (1976), from a tale by Ramón del Valle-Inclán; and Parranda (Binge, 1977), inspired by a homosocial short novel by Eduardo Blanco Amor, but response was muted. More liberated, he came back to his more personal obsessions with Epilogo (Epilogue, 1984), a filmic exercise on meta-literature starring José Sacristán and Francisco Rabal as rival writer-detectives. In the 1980s, he made sporadic appearances as an actor, most prominently in Pedro Almodóvar's ¿Qué he hecho yo para merecer esto!! (What Have I Done to Deserve This? 1984), in which he played an alcoholic writer who plans on publishing Adolf Hitler's diaries. In 1985, he directed for television a very conventional miniseries based on a famous novel on Galician rural society, Los Pazos del Ulloa (The Manors in the Ulloa, 1985), which became a great success.After this, Suárez found renewed inspiration (and funding) for a series of original reworkings of literary classics. Remando al viento / Rowing with the Wind (1988), shot in English with a largely British cast, was the first of them. The film covered the events leading up to Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, with Hugh Grant in a remarkable performance as Lord Byron. The story had been told before (for instance, in the prologue to James Whale's Bride of Frankenstein), but Suárez introduced a deeply romantic perspective and a strong sense of visual composition. This was followed by Don Juan en los infiernos (Don Juan in Hell, 1991), possibly his masterpiece. In this film, one version of Don Juan wanders the wasteland of depressed, magical 17th-century Spain, haunted by memories, ghosts, and old lovers. Although El detective y la muerte (The Detective and Death, 1994), his most Kafkian film, had numerous literary elements, they came from a variety of sources (including his own fiction) rather than from a particular work. Fascinating in many ways (particularly in the visual creation of dark atmospheres), the plot, involving a detective and the young woman he has been asked to kill by a mysterious death figure, became too convoluted to make for good film storytelling. Mi nombre es sombra (My Name Is Shadow, 1996) was a well-scripted version of Stevenson's Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde. In that decade he also directed La reina anónima (The Anonymous Queen, 1992), a metaphysical, absurdist comedy starring arch-sophisticate Marisa Paredes and a post-Almodóvar Carmen Maura.Suárez's more recent films are less distinctive, but the through-lines of his career (literate dialogues, narrative experimentation) are recognizable in El portero (The Goalkeeper, 2000), a story engaging with Spanish past and memories of the Civil War, and Oviedo Express (2007) a return to Suárez's native Asturias.
Historical dictionary of Spanish cinema. Alberto Mira. 2010.