- Garci, José Luis
- (1944- )José Luis Garci's obsession for nostalgia, evidenced both in his film work and in his television appearances as film presenter, has become something of a cliché for critics and audiences, but after a career spanning over five decades, in the early 21st century he almost defiantly keeps on turning out traditional, technically accomplished films with high production values and tight direction of actors.He was a self-taught filmmaker, who started as a cinephile and critic in the early 1960s. From that period, he has retained his fondness for talking about film, warmly discussing the classics and icons that have had such an impact on his life, which he put to good service in a series of radio and TV programs in the 1980s and the 1990s. Writing was his other passion; although he never fully developed on film his expertise in science fiction, he authored a series of stories that took the work of Ray Bradbury as inspiration. Indeed, it was as a scriptwriter that he entered the industry, working both for film and television. Among his most remarkable achievements in this field is La cabina (The Telephone Box, 1972), co-written with and directed by Antonio Mercero, a horror story about a man trapped in a telephone box.At the time, Garci was one of the most recognizable voices in Tercera vía films, penning a number of scripts for Roberto Bodegas. Unlike Bodegas, he evolved smoothly from Tercera vía into more recognizably 'Transition" cinema, and his earliest feature film efforts are examples of this. Both Asignatura pendiente (Pending Subject, 1977) and Solos en la madrugada (Alone in the Small Hours, 1978) became box-office hits in the late 1970s, touching on some sensitive issues of the period, particularly the former, which was a story about two old friends who are in relationships, but meet again after Francisco Franco's death to find they have to catch up with the feelings they did not dare show and the sex they did not dare practice. It was a powerful representation of how Francoist repression had impacted ordinary lives. Then he tackled two successful cinephile investigations into hard-boiled noir, El crack (1981) and El crack 2 (1983), starring Alfredo Landa as a police detective in a gritty Madrid.In 1984, his film Volver a empezar (To Begin Again / Begin the Beguine) won the Academy Award for best foreign film, but after a short-lived period of elation, Spanish critics turned against him, suddenly seeing his films as old-fashioned—Volver a empezar was a conventional film, trite, sentimental, very much the kind of cinema that belonged to an earlier age. Garci was compared negatively to edgier new filmmakers. Such lynching was the cause of a very strained period. Garci counterattacked in his broadcasts, and the reception of his following film was either hostile or muted. He was so often derided by the critical establishment in the late 1980s that he decided to turn away from filmmaking and concentrate on television.He came back to film in 1994, using his personal outlook to his own advantage and beginning a series of beautifully crafted dramas, often set in the past and featuring sad stories, that (again) earned him the attention of audiences and the industry. His first film as director in this period of his career was Canción de cuna (Lullaby, 1994), based on an old-fashioned play set in a convent. Alfredo Landa became something of a recurring presence in those years. El abuelo (The Grandfather, 1998), another adaptation starring Fernando Fernán Gómez and the director's then girlfriend Cayetana Guillén Cuervo, was only moderately successful at the box office. Una historia de entonces (A Tale of Another Time, 2000) and the ensemble story Tiovivo c. 1950 (Merry Go Round, c. 1950, 2004), closely resembling Camilo José Cela's novel La colmena (The Beehive) in structure and cast of characters, both play the nostalgia hand very strongly. Luz de domingo (Sunday Light, 2007) was Landa's final film and Garci's last collaboration with the actor.
Historical dictionary of Spanish cinema. Alberto Mira. 2010.