Early Spanish Cinema (2)

Don Pedro el Cruel (First Part)
R: Ricardo de Baños, Alberto Marro. P: Hispano Films. Sp 1911

“In the living room of his castle, King Pedro the Cruel receives a message that his three bastard brothers (as the film’s script refers to them) are pre-paring to overthrow him. After an initial moment of sadness, he decides to come up with a plan to take revenge on his brothers. He sends a spy and soldiers to the forest near the castle to try to uncover his brothers’ plan. The spy overhears a conversation that the three brothers have in theirtent, and then races to the castle to inform the king. The king reacts by summoning Don Fadrique, one of his brothers, and imprisoning him. Their mother is left alone in the living room of the castle, crying due to the feud between her children and from the pain of betrayal.”
Tatjana Pavlović e.a.: 100 Years of Spanish Cinema. John Wiley & Sons 2009, p. 12-13

About Ángel García Cardona’s El ciego de aldea (1906), Fructuós Gelabert’s Amor que mata (1909), and Ricardo Baños and Albert Marro’s Don Pedro el Cruel (1911):

“These films are part of the creation of ‘the preliminary industrial and expressive frame-work for Spain’s budding cinema’ (Pérez Perucha, ‘Narración de un aciago destino (1896 –1930),’ p. 35). These filmmakers’ trajectories reflect a collective cinematic drive, illustrating most of the traits that marked filming, production, and distribution in early ‘silent’ Spain. El ciego de aldea, directed by Ángel García Cardona, is representative of Films Cuesta and its thriving production activities in Valencia; Amor que mata was filmed by Fructuós Gelabert, the director of the first fiction film in Spain; and Don Pedro el Cruel is representative of the successful and profitable Hispano Films run by Ricardo Baños and Albert Marro. These films were also characteristic of the larger aesthetic, formal, economic, and political trends of early cinema. In addition to displaying noteworthy technical traits and tendencies of ‘primitive’ cinematic expression, these three films also point to the exploration and rethinking of national themes and Spanish cultural identity. (…) Don Pedro el Cruel is a historical drama of monarchic betrayal and succession, a mise-en-scène of the nation’s history and its moments of tension and conflict. The film is contemporary with lavishly produced Italian historical costume films such as Giovanni Pastrone’s Giulio Cesare (1909) and La caduta di Troya (1910), or Enrico Guazzoni’s Bruto (1910). While Don Pedro el Cruel does not share the extravagance and grandeur of its Italian counterparts, it still fits the trend of historical cinematic superproductions.”
100 Years of Spanish Cinema, p. 4-5

El ciego de la aldea
R: Antonio Cuesta, Angel García Cardona. B: Antonio Cuesta. P: Films Cuesta, Valencia. Sp 1906

“In Godella, a town in Valencia, a blind beggar and his granddaughter solicit money in the street. First they encounter a group of sinister bandits who refuse to help them, but then have better luck with a generous wealthy couple. In a horse-drawn carriage, the newlyweds pass by a dangerous area, where the same gang that refused to give the beggars money attacks the couple and kidnaps the woman. By chance, the blind man and his grand-daughter watch hidden as the bandits take the woman into a cave. When the gang leaves, the beggars free the woman. The granddaughter goes in search of the husband, whom she finds accompanied by the Civil Guard. Between them they come up with a plan to ambush the bandits, whom they eventually capture. The newlyweds thank the blind man and his grand-daughter for their generous help.”
100 Years of Spanish Cinema, p. 8-9

Antonio Cuesta‘s El ciego de la aldea (1906, ‘The Village Blind Man’) (…) is a good example of the small but active companies busy at the time. To minimise expenses they filmed on location and thus preserved interesting images of contemporal rural Spain. There are fragments missing from El ciego de la aldea, but the present reconstructed reel is 11 minutes long and maintains a coherent narrative. It uses a fixed camera and is filmed mostly in very long takes by today’s standards with four outside locations and one painted set.”
Bernard P. E. Bentley: A Companion to Spanish Cinema. Boydell & Brewer Ltd 2008, p. 11

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