The death of the Spanish dictator Generalissimo Franco in 1975 ushered in extreme changes in society. The political compass swung from extreme right to left, and from the ashes of fascism emerged the phoenix of a new art movement, La Movida Madrilena.
This glorious epoch intrioduced new faces and injected modern values in Spain. The premier flamenco dancer in Iberia was Antonio Gades. The country aped the western penchant for sex, drugs, and rock n roll.
A young actor, Antonio Banderas, son of a policeman from Malaga, came to Madrid to seek his fortune. Pedro Almodovar, a young experimental film maker, was beginning to create intriguing portraits of the new society, utilizing super-8 film as his medium of choice.
Spain evolved from a repressive, conservative society into a liberal and modern culture with a vibrant night life in the grand tradition of La Dolce Vita. Cannabis became the intoxicant of choice, young people demanded the right to party, Meditteranean enclaves like Ibiza, Benidorm, Marbella and Torremolinos exploded in a torrent of sun, surf and sex.
Once again in the guise of bespoke poet, attired in blue silk suit matching shirt and tie, I cross the threshold of the Foriegn Correspondents Club in Bangkok to attend the screening of Almodovar being hosted by Leika Shankar, the title is High Heels. My tailor will do anything for money.
I liasie with film maker cum agent Kaprice Kea, he introduces me to a young Argentine film director Marcello Schwartz. Marcello now resides in Barcelona, but is in Bangkok to shoot a feature film. The Rioja begins to flow. Producer- director man for all seasons David Winters arrives with Lady X, a member of Papillon, a band David is chronicling in a documentary, in collaboration with Capital TV queen bee Raine Grady.
David is now in pre-production for the film Chasing The Dragon . The star is action hero Wesley Snipes. Best known for his work in film titles like The Money Train and the vampire trilogy Blade, Wesley will bring his athletic and charismatic skills as a martial arts star to the Land of Smiles. The production will be casting in September.
The film will be shot on location in Thailand as was his last motion picture The King Maker. Hollywood actor Ron McCoy graces our table next with his loveley lady , Ae. Three Starlets make a glorious entrance and join us. Meena was featured in the motion picture, Croc. She introduces her smashing friends Didi and Ann. All eyes in the house fix on these beauties as they join our entourage. Are we having fun yet mes cher amis. No baby, I would rather be in Singapore being caned and flogged for being a political dissident and cannabis activist.
La Movida Madrilena challenged the status quo. Les Joglars, an underground theatre in the tradition of The Living Theatre tore down the walls of hypocrisy. Antonio Banderas worked in the early Almodovar films and attracted world wide notice for his sexually charged performance in , Tie Me Up Tie Me Down.
This film caught the attention of Madonna, who championed the career of the new Latin Lover. Banderas inherited the mantle last held by the great Gilbert Roland, last in a lineage that began with Valentino and Navarro.
Roland worked with Valentino in the eponymous bullfight epic Blood And Sand. Gilbert is famous for having tied on a cummerbund for Valentino for the bullfight scene. Roland possessed a rugged physique . craggy good looks, a matinee idol pencil thin moustache and drew women like a magnet while being admired by men. Banderas embodies all the same attributes.
Almodovar is an unusual director best known for his revealing portraitures of women. He is often accused of being anti-male. Yet it is important to realize that Spain is a very macho society.Indeed the origin of the word machismo is attributed to Spain. His cinematic voice is unique and personal, the success of his films a tribute to his intelligence.
Ms Shankar introduces the film and a pretty representative of the Spanish Embassy, Loreto, explains to the audience the significance cultural and political, of La Movida Madrilena. Loreta comes to our table, I introduce her to David, they converse re a future project David has on song, a dance spectacular set in Spain that would return him to his roots as a dancer in the classic film, West Side Story. Loreto introduces me to Jaime Fa, an attache with the Spanish Embassy.
We sneak out to the terrace for wine and cigarettes as the film rolls. Jaime and I engage in an animated debate re my novel in progress, Down And Out In Bangkok, which explores the subject of ETA and tne conflict for Basque independence.
Marcello joins us and diverts the conversation to the feature he is casting, the shoot will begin in October. Jaime and I both remark that the film scene in Thailand today is analagous to Spain of decades ago when Almeria was the capital of the genre known as spaghetti westerns. Both enjoy low production costs and exotic locales as well as high production value
Kaprice rings my mobile. He has escaped with Meena, Didi and Ann to a party at a new venue, Glow. He invites me to join them. Leaving in my wake a trail of Rioja and good craic as the Irish say I roll deep as the film credits signal the conclusion of the film.
On the street a light drizzle falls, the night sky is overcast, the air cool and moist from the monsoon rain. I hail a taxi and instruct him to take me to Glow, for the night is young, red wine is singing in my veins, and I have long to go before I sleep.
PEDRO ALMODOVAR AND LA MOVIDA MADRILENA
BY ANTONIO PINEDA