- Bigas Luna
- (1946- )In the wake of the political Transition and the subsequent end of censorship of sexual matters, a group of new directors made the exploration of sex and sexuality a central part of their artistic concerns. Barcelona-born Bigas Luna had trained as an industrial designer, and had been featured in design exhibitions in the early 1970s before he decided to explore his fantasies on celluloid. Although this aspect was marginal in his first feature, Tatuaje (1978, based on a thriller by Manuel Vázquez Montalbán), at that time he was working on a series of more personal super-8 porn shorts, some of which he collected and released under the title Historias impúdicas.His first full-blown film was Bilbao (1978), a story about the relationship between a prostitute and a psychopath, which featured very prominently his fetishistic fantasies with food and sexual tools. The film was shot in the style of some early Andy Warhol films. The protagonist's voice-over narration provides a weird example of male obsessions against the background of Barcelona. The film obtained an "S" classification, as did his next project, Caniche (1979). The pornographic elements in both films are really part of a wider picture on the limits of representation and a sign of new freedom recently achieved in Spain.After the success of these two films, Bigas Luna moved to the United States, where he shot the flawed Reborn (1981), removed from the personal obsessions in his earlier canon. The story focuses on small religious sect preachers and the commercialization of the idea of redemption. It was a box-office failure, and Bigas Luna returned to Spain to direct Lola (1986), a variation on the man-eating Lola-Lola character first played by Marlene Dietrich in The Blue Angel (Josef Von Sternberg, 1930). The success of this film both in Spain and Italy allowed him the freedom to change gears with Angustia (Anguish, 1987), a horror thriller which was also an exploration of voyeurism, although this time the narrative content was decidedly asexual. It featured themes from Alfred Hitchcock (particularly Psycho) and in some ways it recycled images from Bilbao, pushing them into darker areas. At one point well into the story, audiences realize they are seeing a film within a film, and the connections between their voyeurism and that of the featured audience at the fictitious cinema makes for a fascinating experience.Back in Spain, Bigas Luna sought Italian funding for an adaptation of Almudena Grandes' erotic novel Las edades de Lulú (1990), which would be done in co-production and with an Italian protagonist (Francesca Neri). In many ways, it was a return to familiar ground. It follows the story of the protagonist from the moment she discovers sex in early adolescence to her experimentation with increasingly extreme practices as she matures.Through the 1990s, Bigas worked mostly on his hugely popular "Iberian Trilogy," focusing on different images and motives of a specifically Spanish culture: the first title, Jamón, Jamón (1992) featured food very prominently; the second, Huevos de oro (Golden Balls, 1993), was about machismo and, the third, La teta y la luna (The Tit and the Moon, 1994), centered on mother obsession using woman's breasts as a metaphor. Jamón jamón, the most successful of the three, was built around a heavily symbolic erotic triangle, and it launched the careers of its three main protagonists, Javier Bardem, Jordi Mollá, and Penélope Cruz. The film's international success guaranteed completion of the other two and also provided offers for further co-productions. The trilogy was a substantial effort, but Bigas seemed to run out of ideas as it progressed, and critics and audiences were increasingly sceptical. La teta y la luna is uneven, and it articulates its main point on mother fixation less clearly than the other two.In the most recent period of his career, Bigas has returned to his interest in women as erotic objects, both explicitly, as in Bambola (Doll, 1996) and Son de mar (Sea Music, 2001), and more subtly, as in La camarera del Titanic / Femme de chambre du Titanic (The Chambermaid on the Titanic, 1997). The latter is his best post-trilogy project, a co-production with France, and constitutes a captivating postmodern twist on fantasies and realities centering on a woman who might or might not have been a waitress on the Titanic. For his latest film to date, Yo soy la Juani (I Am Juani, 2007), Bigas Luna has turned to a woman of the younger generation. Juani, the film's protagonist, is disappointed with her faithless boyfriend and moves to Madrid to fulfill her dream of becoming an actress. As Bigas stated, he wanted to represent the kind of strong, bright, and socially marginal adolescent who is immersed in the difficulties of contemporary urban life. He saw it as a tribute to women's resilience and resourcefulness.
Historical dictionary of Spanish cinema. Alberto Mira. 2010.