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Rebirth of a "lost" Spanish classic

The Disenchantment (El desencanto)
Regissør: Jaime Chávarri

An indirect but revealing portrait of Spain in a painful transition period.

This article is machine translated by Google from Norwegian

For many of those who visited the Rotterdam Festival this year, the freshest and most vital find was an over forty year old movie. For while Jaime Chávarris The Disenchantment (El desencanto, 1976) is legendary among Spanish movie lovers, for some mysterious reason, it has never won international fame. This may well change, after the audience's warm reception during the screening of the film – via ghostly, monochrome 35mm – in the eclectic side program "History of Shadows", curated by Gerwin Tamsma, who examined how film treats the past.

I The Disenchantment the piercing, personal experiences of a rather unusual family are used as a prism to explore – in a deceptively modest way – a wide range of psychological and political conditions. Over the course of two years, Chávarri interviewed the sixty-one-year-old Felicidad Blanc, the widow of the highly regarded poet Leopoldo Panero (1909 – 1962), and her three grown sons in and around their tasteful rich man's home.

The family obviously consists of very sophisticated and learned people, with equally obvious neuroses. Their lackluster, interwoven neuroses appear extremely captivating when, individually or together, they honestly recall Panero senior's career, eccentricities and haughty nature. Twelve years after his death, it is clear that The Great Man (not just one franquista, but also a personal friend of Franco himself) still cast long shadows over their own. Subtly, the film explores and demonstrates the clear differences between Panero's private and public faces, unveiling a statue in his honor with much pomp and splendor in his provincial hometown.

Chávarri's film is also an indirect, but revealing, portrait of Spain in a period of painful transition from the Franco-era oppression – to which the Panero boys relied in their own special ways – and into the precarious first years of democracy. The Disenchantment is a basic melancholic work, steeped in a dose of lifeless humor, and now appears to find its place among the landmarks of post-war European documentaries. That it should do so, about four years after the last of the Panero brothers died, is an irony that the family would no doubt have sensed.

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Neil Young
Young is a regular film critic for Modern Times Review.

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