Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Dr. Bob Prescribes Carmen

This is the second of three posts celebrating the Spanish director Carlos Saura’s spectacular “Flamenco Trilogy”, his set of three movies in which the stories are told primarily through flamenco music and dance.

My Dr. Bob Prescribes post for March 8 of this year addressed the first of these movies, Bodas de Sangre (“Blood Wedding”) of 1981. On May 19 we will tackle the third of the trilogy, El Amor Brujo (“Love, the Magician”, or “Spell-bound Love”, or “The Bewitched Love”) of 1986. For today, it’s the second film of the trilogy, Carmen, of 1983.

Carlos Saura (left) and Antonio Gades, writing Carmen while camped out in a hotel room, 1982
Carlos Saura (left) and Antonio Gades, writing Carmen while camped out in a hotel room, 1982

The Flamenco Trilogy was a collaboration between Carlos Saura and the superb and justly famous flamenco dancer and choreographer Antonio Gades.

Here’s how this post will be structured. First, I’ll offer up quick biographical sketches of Carmen’s principals: Carlos Saura, Antonio Gades, Cristina Hoyos, Laura del Sol, and the lead guitarist Paco de Lucía. Second, I’ll outline the overall action of the movie, drawing our video examples from the dance episodes.

A final point before moving on: I really, really, really want you to watch the entire film; it is freaking brilliant. So please understand that the video excerpts offered up in this post constitute but a small part of this production!

Carlos Saura circa 1983
Carlos Saura (born 1932); circa 1983

Carlos Saura Atarés – film director, writer, and photographer – was born in Huesca, Aragón, Spain on January 4, 1932. Saura’s mother Fermina Atarés Torrente was a professional concert pianist and his father an attorney and civil servant.

After making documentary shorts for a number of years, Saura completed his first film – Cuenca – in 1958. Despite the often gritty, neo-realist look of Saura’s films, they were, from pretty much the beginning of his career, “coded” using metaphors and symbolism in order to get around the strict censorship of Francisco Franco’s regime. Consequently, even after Franco left office in 1973, Saura:

“forged an international reputation for his cinematic treatment of emotional and spiritual responses to repressive political conditions.”

He is today considered, along with Luis Buñuel and Pedro Almodóvar, to be among Spain’s greatest filmmakers.

For our information, over the course of his long career, he was nominated for two Academy Awards. One of those nominations was for Carmen.

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