JAVIER BARDEM - AN ESTABLISHED SPANISH EXPORT |
The Spanish answer to Despardieu ?
The Spaniards, like the Brits, love dressing up but the Iberian effort is taken much more seriously. It is to be expected therefore that the country should have a strong theatrical and cinematographic history with a substantial slice of the world market. It has therefore come as a surprise to many in the entertainment industry to find that this is not the case . However much the moguls and their talent spotters have tried to stretch their necks into the celluloid horizon, Spain has so far not given them a glimpse of what these passionate and risque people could perhaps nurture. There is a language problem in the pot, but then this did not deter Bardot, or in fact the likes of many a stauesque actor like Marcello Mastroianni or the eternal oracle, Sophia Loren. But then that is Italy they would say, which for many is the genuine cradle of real cinema. It is no coincidence that Hollywood makes sure the Italian directors and producers sit high on their already lofty podiums. Ponti, Scorcese, Zeffirelli to name but a few. France cannot be left behind of course and thereby hangs a shadow, called Despardieu, that brings echoes of one very potential aspirant to the cinematographic throne of Spain – Javier Bardem. All before him pale by comparison although it could be said that his recent prize, Penelope Cruz, radiated unusually in her portrayal of the innkeeper in Almodovar´s Volver.
That French shadow which looms large over our silver screen, nostalgic buds, needs little mention but Javier unwittingly slides into his own role model of the great Despardieu whose sheer “unlikelihood” contrasts strangely with the stark reality of his ability to move the masses and hold them entranced in whatever he portrays. Javier has it too, of his own exclusive variety, and was just as “unlikely” in his rugged , four dimensional image, nose and all, for the industry to predict the impact (with a perceptible crescendo) that is now warming the hearts of the international servants of the myth makers. No board treader like to be twinned with any other in the personality game, but there are some very interesting aspects of Javier which could lead him to venture into the roles that Despardieu so significantly and easily slipped into. The great Bardem is not quite, but the potential and capability is there and we can expect it to mellow in its own self discovery.
No Pinup but just as much.
Javier is no pinup but he has come close to the Oscar for his role in the recent production of “Before Night Falls”and was the first Spanish actor to win an Oscar as the best supporting actor in “No country for old men” Venice too, paid tribute for yet another of his enchanting interpretations. As a regular companion of perhaps the most experienced of the casting director/agents and talent spotters in British film and television, Howard Payes, I could not but tackle him on the subject . “What does it take to move you to sponsor any one particular aspirant to fame “ It did not take him long to retort “ I could never describe it, but I know what it is when I see it – think of a island with a causeway to the mainland which is mainly hidden by mist. When it clears for a spitting instance, you know that you are privileged to know its there “ Howard discovered Elaine Paige the doyen of the hard line blockbuster stage musicals - and what a find ! Javier knows where that delicate bridge is and it will not be long before he finds it and claim his right of access. Without doubt, he will haunt and take us away from ourselves, again and again. Perhaps he will become that very special Spaniard who brought his country with him to our dinner table, when the film was fresh in our minds and we walked on those air cushions all the way to our favourite restaurant.
Spain and Spanish may be two different things to many, but in reality although the country could betray a touch of federal composition, there is such a thing which is undeniably Spanish. Javier has it despite what they say about Catalonians. It is an essence of nature and approach that only real Spaniards can portray. As such therefore he is very much a prize export and like the provocative Valentino and teasing Mastroianni who brought those sparkling fountains and crystal skies of Rome to our minds eye, the pastures and medieval structures of the great rural towns of ancient Hispania will spring to life as never before. To understand Bardem, is to understand the nature of a man whose latent sexuality devoid of tinsel, appeals to both sexes and which can take them both to the personae he ingeniously offers to them. Not many can do it, but Bardem does, primarily because of the simplicity and transparency of his ego. When he dares to stare straight into his audience´s eye even for that splitting instant, he will tell all and lead the way.
Home grown with own roots.
Javier comes from a talented artistic family with theatre in its blood - a Redgrave of the Spanish stage. This enviroment and table of opportunities often lead to bland proficiency without what Spaniards call “ duende”.and sometimes the heirs fight hard to establish their own unique brand of entertainment art. The special magic dart that leaps to the foreground when eyes threaten to move away from them is part of that duende or stage presence and most Spaniards can detect it within seconds. Curiously enough, despite the long and cultural liaison that the Spanish people have had with their theatre, they have carefully avoided supporting their own very poignant cultural film world, preferring alas, the plastic fire and tumble of Hollywood to the exquisiteness of their own productions, which by cultural association, make them uneasy. When France surprised the Anglo Saxon world with the best foreign film in the duo, Jean de Florette/ Manon du Source it saw no different to what Spain was capable of producing but never, through lack of local support, been able to export. It is this that it does superbly well as shown in the endearing and award entitled film “Un Franco 14 pesetas” which was a jewel that Spanish pride preferred not to see. Mores the pity, because it is the soul of the country that matters and not its superficial flirt with apparent wealth and sophistication. It is in the cultural soul that the real wealth resides and its export consequently provides. Javier Bardem may well have broken those barriers that could have been brought down so many decades before. Perhaps now, with little or no dubbing, a window will open that will enable the world to look just past its leading actor and see a nation not in fracture, but in the making with a claim to attention and support of its film industry that has so far been remarkably and studiously ignored.
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