Veteran director CARLOS SAURA has been making films for so long he can’t really help himself. Now 66 years old, he shows no signs of slowing down; indeed, British audiences can hardly keep up with him. Words: Steve Rose
Having made his reputation with subtly subversive. politically galvanized films under the censorship rules of Franco‘s Spain. Carlos Saura’s passion was expected to die with the General. but instead he has become more prolific. as if carried by an unstoppable momentum. His latest release. the Oscar-nominated Tango. is old news: he’s already finished his next project. a Goya biopic. and is about to start work on a new thriller.
There are many strands to Saura’s filmmaking. but Tango fits into an easily definable one. a process tailored for dance-oriented musicals. which he has been refining with earlier projects such as Carmen. Blood Wedding and Flamenco. Veering away from standard character drama. these productions are like rehearsals for a musical rather than the musical itself — characterised by semi-fictional storylines highlighting the behind- the-scenes processes. and virtually abstract studio spaces in which most of the action takes place.
Tango takes this technique further than before: the set is a complex system of screens and mirrors which were projected onto and moved around during shooting to allow the cameras the freedom of movement to capture the dancing. ‘lt’s all a device
‘You can't get away from the tradition of tango.’ Carlos Saura
Breathing new life into immutable forms: Carlos Saura directs Tango
really.‘ he explains. ‘It could be something that exists or it could be something that’s completely artificial. Just like dance itself. It’s a way of representing. a different narrative system.’
Making films this way is. he admits. extremely complicated. After an invitation to direct the project from Argentinian producer Juan Codazzi (‘l was sorry I hadn’t had the idea myself.’ he chuckles). he spent a year researching. with trips to Buenos Aires to meet the city’s veteran tango dancers. choreographers and musicians who were essential to the project. Then it was a matter of co-ordinating the separate disciplines. ‘The music and the choreography had to link in with the story in many different ways. as well as fitting in with my visual ideas. so the dances were continually amended right up to the last minute.’
Alongside this trickery. there’s a contradictory sense of tradition to Saura’s work. History. cultural heritage and the past are always prominent in his films. and it has not been easy to reconcile this respect with the desire to innovate. This. perhaps. is his greatest talent: breathing new life into what were considered immutable forms. ‘You can’t get away from the tradition of tango.’ suggests Saura. ‘but at the same time. my film presents a different version of tango to the way it is in Argentina. It’s an attempt to open tango up to the future. to create new prospects.’
One wonders at times if Saura really wants to be a film director at all. He is as interested in the dancing and the music as in the talking. and he is happy to render the entire filmmaking process transparent in order to stimulate a complex chain of associations. He is less a director than a choreographer of the camera. Would he really rather be a dancer? ‘Yes!’ he laughs. admitting he loves to dance himself. ‘My dream was to be a ﬂamenco dancer but it didn’t work out that way. I’m going to be reincarnated as a dancer?
Tango opens on Fri 9 Jul. See review.
Lights, camera, action. . .
MOONSTONE INTERNATIONAL HAS announced its next two Screen Labs: A Filmmakers' Lab near Tarbet, Argyll, Tue 19 Oct-Sun 7 Nov and a Screenwriters' Lab on the Isle of Wight, Mon 29 Nov-Sun 5 Dec. The Labs, which partner emerging writers and directors with established filmmakers, are open to European Union members working in English language. Deadlines are: Fri 23 Jul (Filmmakers’) and Fri 20 Aug (Screenwriters'). Further info is available from: Moonstone International, 67 George Street, Edinburgh EH2 2JG. Tel: 0131 220 2080. Fax: 0131 220 2081. Email: Mstonelabs©aol.com.
SKY MOVIEMAX IS running a new short film competition. Cut Short. The competition is open to amateur filmmakers who have completed a short film no longer than twenty minutes which has not been broadcast on television during 1998/99. The best twenty submissions will be broadcast nationally from Jan 2000 and the winner will be announced the following Apr. There are also cash and digital video equipment prizes. The deadline for submissions, on VHS, is 31 Aug. Further information and entry forms can be obtained from Natalie Mitchell, BSkyB. 6 Centaurs Business Park, Grant Way, lsleworth TW7 SQD or via the internet: www.sky.co.uk/cutshort.
CLINT EASTWOOD'S NEXT directorial outing will be the science fiction film, Space Cowboys. Old warhorses joining Clint's Air Force pilot onboard a space shuttle will be: Tommy Lee Jones, James Cromwell, James Garner and Donald Sutherland. Meanwhile, Jim Carrey has dropped out of The Incredible Mr Limpet, the tale of a regular Joe who turns into a fish and helps the US Navy during World War II, leaving Robin Williams and Mike Myers in the running for the fishy role. Carrey is busy shooting the Farrelly brothers' latest, Me, Myself And Irene.
The astronaut with no name: Clint Eastwood
8—22 Jul 1999 THEU8T19