Sunday, May 22

‘Long live Russia!’, Berlanga’s unreleased film

On May 27, 2008, two years before he died, Luis García Berlanga made a deposit in box number 1034 of the Cervantes Institute vault with instructions that it not be opened until his centenary. On June 10, 2021, the legacy is proceeded and revealed, of which a typed and bound copy of Long live Russia!the script for what should have been, but never was, the fourth installment of the National saga.

Welcome, Mr. Berlanga

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the national shotgun It marked the professional rebirth of Berlanga after an uneven stage and his confirmation not only as an exceptional choral filmmaker, but as a political chronicler of the ongoing course, simultaneous to reality. In the film, set in 1972 and located on the Los Tejadillos estate, owned by the Marquises of Leguineche, a Catalan industrialist, played by José Sazatornil, got close to each other during a Francoist hunt with the intention of placing the corresponding minister the patent for some electronic gatekeepers.

To cry to the montería

The entire Spain of 1978 cheered that satire of scoundrels and parasites touched with fear before the imminent advent of democracy, a change that put the bicoca at risk and led them to the game of chairs. The success was such that it gave rise to two sequels: National Heritage (1982) where, once the regime had ended, the Marquis of Leguineche tried to rebuild his beach bar in the town and court and National III (1982) in which, completely downtrodden and fearful of the socialist reign, the Leguineche tried to manage to evade capital to France.

In the 1990s, producer Andrés Vicente Gómez became interested in reviving the series and financed Berlanga and Rafael Azcona to write a script for the greater glory of the character of the Marquis, whose characteristic interpreter, Luis Escobar, had made a deep impression on viewers. But the actor dies in 1991 and the script is unusable. Azcona, whose professional relationship with Berlanga suffers wear and tear at that time, drops out of the project, and the producer asks for the concurrence of the writer Manuel Hidalgo to achieve a new version in collaboration with the director and his son Jorge Berlanga. Approved the text, however, the pre-production does not stop chaining setbacks and, despite the high scores given to the script, the subsidy from the Ministry of Culture was twice denied due to alleged errors of form in the budget sections. And for one thing or another, you don’t really know, time passes and the project fades to black.

The Empire Strikes Back

In Long live Russia!, the Marquis has died and the heirs go to Los Tejadillos with a scavenging spirit. Previously, Jaume Canivell, the Catalan industrialist, has bought the Leguineche family’s estate with the exception of a plot where the family home is located and, it turns out, the only water well in the area, which is an obstacle for the field of golf with urbanization planned by the Pole.

Luis José, the eldest son, has just returned from exile, is on probation for various charges and is considering other business possibilities such as restoring the Russian throne taking advantage of the disintegration of the USSR, which heralds the rise of private property and green pastures for real estate speculators and taking advantage of the pilgrim link of his lineage with a stupid Russian who is prowling around there, presumed great-grandson of Tsar Nicholas and fond of bum-fucking chickens.

Long live Russia! It is paella on Thursdays. The connoisseur of Berlanga is going to devour this astracanada with the smile put on and repaid by a cinema that no longer exists and that refers to La Codorniz, Bruguera or the farces of Arniches. The discomfort of reading a script vanishes in the length of the herd scenes, those prodigious sequence shots characteristic of the director, based on a dialectical table tennis where nobody listens to anyone, but where we will once again hear José Luis’s syncopation in a crystalline way López Vázquez, Saza’s troubled ruff, Luis Ciges’ boar delirium, Agustín González’s hotties or Amparo Soler Leal’s fearsome fury.

The codes, the glances, the timbre of all the pleas, retorts and anger of Long live Russia! we know them thanks to the inexplicable talent of that troupe of comedians who seemed to work in the open, without a net or interior monologue, because in each one of them a crowd was represented.

Franco’s families

Another thing that, if you pay attention, can be heard in the background is the laugh of the Valencian. Berlanga’s joy in each of the brilliant rivets of this script full of details and otherwise very common, nothing new in his filmography since it replicates the structure of the first film —and after so many of his— and is based on the pleasure of the characters to return to attend to their axioms, born and clairvoyance.

Berlanga and Azcona had the plans for Spain, they knew the social monster, and they could smell the swollen beast of power in the hands of Cainites like us. The only difference between his characters and the characters that rule us is that the former always lose. Within seconds, it is in sight, time has put them in their place, which is to say that they are still there, doing their own thing, looting. When the booty is big there seems to be no problem, there is something for everyone. But when there are times of scarcity, they do not hesitate to slash each other. They are hyenas. Moral scum. Pure human matter.

Long live Russia! it happens in the 90s but thirty years later it is still a lucid and exact portrait of this dunghill of careerists, bankers, industrialists, shysters, getters, cobists, lickers, bureaucrats, technocrats, monarchs, runners, aristocrats, nativity scenes, builders, Christian Democrats, nationalists, patriots and even Marxist intellectuals. The known collusion, in short, of businessmen, vassals and apolitical officials all; that is, right-wing, like his parents.

Running placid Holy Week of the year 2022 of our Lord Jesus Christ, Long live Russia! it reads like a capital letter that never was, but that in this edition of Pepitas de Calabaza (from Logroño like Azcona) takes on a nature letter and comes to us, between a gift and a privilege, precise in form and substance, warm in the prologue by Manuel Hidalgo and instructive in the happy epilogue of Aguilar and Cabrerizo. And it brings the advantage over film that it can be read to a blind man.

Finally some good news in the press: that Berlanga is still with us, and then bad news: that we continue without relief. Because today there is no one, nor does it exist nor is it expected in any discipline of peninsular satire, that reaches the sole of the shoes.