Spanish director, screenwriter, film pedagogue, author and photographer Carlos Saura (4.1.1932) made his first 16 mm films already in the 50s. These early works introduced influences of neorealism to the cinema of his native country. Saura’s first feature film The Delinquents (Los golfos, 1960), a description of an aimlessly drifting youth gang, already involved incendiary elements and soon Saura developed into a skilful interpreter of the delusions of the times – the era of Franco the dictator – pitting his strength and wit with political and moral censorship.

Precisely those liberty-restricting circumstances were probably pertinent to develop Saura’s cinematic expression towards cunning metaphors, allegories and symbolism, and his most characteristic genre grew to be an alliance of fantasy and hallucination tinted with intelligence and irony, reflecting reality as if by stealth, with depictions of childhood and family and the intimate squiggles of memory acting as disguised ways of dealing also with Spain’s history and present. The sparks of radicalism already smouldered in the campfires of nostalgia during the “aperturismo” (opening) of the sixties, and whispers of the past turned into rallying cries of the future.

In The Hunt (La caza, 1966), awarded Silver Bear for Best Director by the Berlin International Film Festival jury headed by Pier Paolo Pasolini, four friends venture into nature where psychological disagreements escalate to the point where they start to kill each other. One can sense the civil war setting looming in the background, and the work also grew into Saura’s international breakthrough – of course serving to discombobulate his native land’s censorship officials even more.

Saura made no less than nine films together with his long-time life-companion Geraldine Chaplin. Midnight Sun Film Festival will screen the beloved childhood description Cria cuervos… (1976), and Elisa, My Life (Elisa, vida mía, 1977), an elegiac family drama and Saura’s by then perhaps most intimate work. It examines an intensive father-daughter relationship slightly in the spirit of Bergman’s Through A Glass Darkly.

From the coded language dealing with Spain’s crucial era, taboos, sex and politics, Saura moved in the 80s increasingly deeply to the trends and currents of culture and art and actual creation events. Co-operation with flamenco legend Antonio Gades gave birth to a powerful Lorca adaptation Blood Wedding (Bodas de sangre, 1981) and the passionate, dreamlike, seducing Carmen (1983). Later Saura took up documentaries and especially episode-like music and dance films (Sevillanas, 1992, Flamenco, Flamenco, 2010…). As an example of these we will see Flamenco (1995), a film resonating with ardour, passion and guitars, beautifully shot by Vittorio Storaro, and the equally mesmerizing Iberia (2005).

While not working, Saura loves cameras, and also builds them himself. Here in the North, we can expect to hear incredible stories from the master who has belonged to the very spearhead of Spanish cinema for more than half a century, as he was a friend of e.g. Luis Buñuel and, at a certain point, his everyday lunch companion. And having seen one of Saura’s films his “father-in-law” Charles Chaplin called him a poet, so the recommendations are more than apt.

Lauri Timonen