Camus, Mario

Camus, Mario
(1935- )
   Mario Camus started in the film industry as second unit director in 1959. He contributed to the script of Carlos Saura's Los golfos (The Lazy Young Men, 1959), even before he completed his degree on film direction at the Instituto de Investigaciones y Experiencias Cinematográficas. Although not an innovator and lacking the personal perspective one associates with Pedro Almodóvar or Luis G. Berlanga, Camus, in his parallel careers as scriptwriter and director, is an emblematic figure in Spanish film history, adapting to circumstances and attempting risky, substantial projects in a variety of contexts.
   His first film as director was Los farsantes (The Fakers, 1963), adapted from a short story by Daniel Sueiro. In the mid-1960s, his adaptations of Ignacio Aldecoa's Young Sánchez (1964) and Con el viento solano (With the Southern Wind, 1967) brought him into close contact with Nuevo cine español filmmakers, but whereas colleagues like Basilio Martín Patino or Francisco Regueiro experimented with form, he opted for a classical approach. When auteurist cinema hit hard times at the end of the 1960s, Camus survived in commercial genre films, including pop musicals with Raphael (Al ponerse el sol [ At Sunset ] 1967, Digan lo que digan [ Whatever They Say ], 1968) and Sara Montiel (Esa mujer [ That Woman ], 1969), and even a spaghetti Western (La cólera del viento [ Rage of the Wind ], 1970). Unlike other colleagues, he easily accepted a turn to television when he could find nothing else, adapting novels like Galdós' Fortunata y Jacinta (1980) into quality miniseries.
   Two main strands run through his long career. The first is the literary adaptation, shot in a tasteful classical style. He became something of a specialist in the genre in the 1980s, when he was at the helm of both La Colmena (The Beehive, 1982), based on Camilo José Cela's novel, and Los Santos Inocentes (The Holy Innocents, 1984), an adaptation of Miguel Delibes' short novel. In both cases, the film version looked more carefully put together and generally clearer and less ambiguous than the background described in the books (in contrast, one could think of the work of Vicente Aranda, another master literary adaptor who dares to take risks in the transfer). Both were also linear retellings of far more complex structures.
   The second strand is more interesting and more substantial: a number of Camus films are about the impact of the past on the present, whether as memory or in more objectively historical terms. The best example of this in his filmography was Sombras de una batalla (Shadows of a Battle, 1993). With an impressive central performance by Carmen Maura, this is the drama of an ex-terrorist whose past catches up with her years later. Other films in this line of development are Los días del pasado (Days of the Past, 1978) and La vieja música (Old Music, 1985).
   Camus has also contributed scripts for other people's projects. He adapted Valle Inclán's Luces de Bohemia (Lights of Bohemia, 1985) for Miguel Ángel Díez and co-wrote some of Pilar Miró's best films: Werther (1986), Beltenebros (Prince of Darkness, 1991), and El pájaro de la felicidad (Bird of Happiness, 1993).

Historical dictionary of Spanish cinema. . 2010.

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