To what extent does Spanish cinema subvert traditional values such as family, sex, religion and machismo?

Essay by Stix August 2006

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Spanish cinema, among the oldest in Europe, a cinema that never lost its drive - even during the Civil War feature films continued to be made - and which even from its beginnings reached reasonably high levels of production, only claimed the attention of international critics about twenty or so years ago, after the death of Franco. Arguably, even today it is still a cinema that, despite a few exceptional films by directors such as Saura, Almodóvar, Bigas Luna, de la Iglesia, or Amenábar, remains unknown to mass audiences. Under Franco censorship was extremely strict on what was allowed and what was not allowed to be show in films. Numerous film directors made films, but then later had to be edited as they did not pass the Francoist laws. However, as a result, after the death of Franco in 1975, many directors started to explore various directions which had originally been prohibited.

This is often led to the reason why so many films subvert traditional values such as sex, religion, machismo and family. The spectacular rise and development of Spanish cinema over the last twenty years has been largely associated with the work of directors who could loosely be said to belong to an auteurist as distinct from a popular tradition of film-making.

Jamón jamón (1992) directed by Bigas Luna, was the first and commercially most successful film of his 'Trilogía Ibérica'. The film concentrates on gender relationships and sexuality, and critical attention has tended to concentrate on the ideologically suspect display of machismo through the character of Raúl (Javier Bardem). Jamón jamón establishes its visual ironic mode from the first shot. The film's credits are superimposed on a black screen with white dots that seem to represent a starry night, but, as the camera pans down, we discover that...