60 years of the 'Viridiana' scandal
The movie copy had arrived to Cannes the night before without practically anyone having seen, for obvious reasons, the final result and, the next day, the May 17, 1961, Viridiana, from Teruel Luis Bunuel, was screened on the last day of the Cannes Festival. Right away, the film team present there (the man from Teruel had not come) saw that he was going to win the Palme d'Or (he shared it with A long absence, Henri Colpi) that was delivered the next day, and began to look for solutions to "avoid that hot potato," he explains Amparo Martínez Herranz, Professor of Film History at the University of Zaragoza and coordinator of the book La España de Viridiana (PUZ). "It occurs to them that the best way to avoid later conflicts is to go to the door of the room of the Director General of Cinematography of the Francoist Government, José María Muñoz Fontán, and convince him that he was the right one to collect the award. They tell him that he has to pick it up on behalf of the Spanish State, that he is going to honor the country ... His ego comes up and picks it up with pride. The strategy was for the State to take over the film as its own because they were already aware of the one that was going to be prepared ... ".
Soon after, the Vatican launched a strong tirade against the film in L'Obsservatore Romano and the events were rushed. Muñoz Fontán was abruptly dismissed when he set foot on Spanish soil and the Francoist state decides "in a measure that has no precedent or consequent not to prohibit it, but to consider it non-existent ", explains the professor of Film History at the University of Zaragoza, Agustin Sanchez Vidal, whose most direct consequence, he reasons, "is that if it is not because Silvia Pinal saves a copy by sending it to Mexico, which was a country without relations with Spain, we wouldn't even have a movie. "
The story begins a couple of years before when Luis Buñuel returns to Spain to shoot this film that was to be co-produced with Mexico (Gustavo Alatriste, UNINCI_y Films59): "There is a first moment in which everyone hopes to take advantage of Buñuel's return ", affirms Amparo Martínez, "the filmmaker himself who can return, the producers, and also the Franco regime. The regime had initiated a program of cultural prestige with the technocrats seeking a washing of image they saw in Buñuel the perfect moment ".
"It is a film made in complete and absolute freedom which makes it the jewel that is within the production of Buñuel ", claims Amparo Martínez, who is clear that" he knew very well what he had in hand. "Something that Sánchez Vidal corroborates:" It is a film that he liked a lot and I have the impression, after talking to him, that he was very aware of what they were doing. Buñuel knew how much was at stake within his prestige by returning to Franco's Spain. That is why in Viridiana he put all the meat on the grill to dispel the doubts of some who feared collusion with the regime. "And yet, Sánchez Vidal is clear that today "we have a distorted perspective of the film because of everything that happened afterwards. Everything changes with the condemnation of the Vatican, in fact, I always use a contemporary film as an example, Placidby Luis García Berlanga. She talks about the same thing, questions Christian charity, and is a candidate for the Oscars for Spain. The only difference with Viridiana is that the Vatican does not attack her. "
"It is a magnificent film but perhaps it is not seen so much because it is not very accommodating and asks uncomfortable questions. It shows the old gentleman, the stale Spain that was supposedly being abandoned (the Coca-Cola poster is all the modernity that appears in the film ) and the false modernization of the Franco regime of that time ", concludes Amparo Martínez.