May 14, 2021

Juan Mariné, almost a century of cinema | Culture

When I wake up today, Juan Mariné He will have begun his last countdown towards his first century of life. The legendary director of photography, who started in the cinema before the Civil War, and reputed film restorer was born on December 31, 1920. Mariné, who receives the tribute of the Spanish film library, He turns 99 without glasses, he remembers the addresses of the studies where he has worked, as well as the names of his colleagues, and he can’t stand sitting for more than five minutes, while repeating conversations in French or Catalan for more than eight decades

A life of Mariné occupies that of several others. Last Saturday he was working in his office (three chained rooms full of machines and film material) in the basement of the Community Film School of Madrid (ECAM), in the City of the Image. In one of the closets, a short film poster The Submarine, dedicated to his career: a close-up of his face is seen with the right part in gloom and the left illuminated. “Define my life. Until 1947 darkness and hardships. From that moment, cinema and happiness. ” The National Film Award and the Gold Medal for Merit in Fine Arts have them at home. The rest of the awards rest there in two showcases. His most precious possessions are in the other two rooms: various machines created by Mariné to clean, restore and digitize celluloid. Explaining them, he turns on like a child. And start remembering.

“My father was a good soccer player, Foot-Ball Espanya. He tried Barça, but my grandfather told him that if he signed for them, there was the door. My mother also played: she was the goalkeeper of the Children’s Spanish Society of Foot-Ball ”. Something unusual decades later. “True, but it didn’t matter.” He learned to read with four years to understand the posters inserted in silent films. “I was a very good student, and as I was awarded a scholarship, my father let me keep going to school. Until some fevers had me a long period in bed. I was blind and luckily he touched me in the emergency room, just on my birthday, an expert doctor in Ophthalmology. I spent months with priests, but he managed to heal my eyes, ”he recalls with a scared face. He did not return to high school, and went to work carrying freights. “I played with Modesto Llosas Rosell. You don’t know who it was, right? Of course, he became famous with the name of Jorge Mistral. ”

Burial of Durruti

One day in November 1934, his uncle ordered him to take a film camera to shoot sound cinema at the Orphea studio where it was filmed The eighth commandment “The instruction manual was in French, and while I waited for the van to arrive to move the camera I read it. Upon arriving at the studio, the team, all made up of Swiss, had already had problems with the camera they were using, ”a model earlier than the one he had carried. “I was the only one able to understand that they had wrongly plugged in the installation with which the camera synchronized with the sound system and the three-phase and single-phase electrical systems.” Result: they asked him to stay next to the camera. Adrien Porchet, the cinematographer, gave him a tip: “If you want to prosper in this, be at your time and never feel.” From that moment he has taken it to the letter.

Thus begins the first part of Mariné’s career in cinema, which, at the beginning of the Civil War, reaches a historic climax: the leader of the anarchist troops in Madrid, Buenaventura Durruti, He dies after being shot in November 1936. “I was from the CNT [el sindicato anarquista] and I was part of the team that filmed his funeral in Barcelona. But there were so many people that we used up the batteries, and I was the only one who knew how to roll by hand dragging the film with the crank. ” He saved the first problem, and the second, the lack of sound, was solved by synchronizing the images with the broadcast of Radio Barcelona.


Mariné participated in Aurora of hope (1937), anarchist drama precursor of neorealism, and in other films — as Package, the number one public photographer (1938), where he became friends with a beginning actor, Paco Martínez Soria—, before joining the ranks. After his company was decimated in May 1938 at the Battle of the Segre River, Mariné ended up as a photographer for another myth of the contest, Lieutenant Colonel Enrique Lister, until that winter he crossed the border with France.

Arrested by the Senegalese colonial troops of France, Mariné was held in the Argelès-sur-Mer concentration camp. “I am the only Spaniard who managed to escape from there, and I swam.” Finally, with other refugees he traveled as a prisoner from Pasajes (Gipuzkoa) to Cádiz. From the prison camp in Rinconada (Seville), his father took him with luck and contacts, and Mariné ended the war on the Franco side, as a photographer of the General Staff of Catalonia. The first thing he did when he achieved freedom was to go to a room, to see The great Ziegfeld.

He was still a military man when he returned to the cinema, filming in October 1939 of The dumb boat (“The original, not the one you all remember”). In 1942 he will shoot four films, in 1943, five … In 1947 he moved to Madrid and the following year he debuted as director of photography in the first of 140 films in which he did this work until 1990, which he retired with a shoot Half underwater: The crack, by Juan Piquer Simón. Among them, the first shot in Spain in Technicolor, The cat (1956), with Jorge Mistral and Aurora Bautista, of which Mariné remembers several anecdotes.

He has worked with filmmakers like Edgar Neville, José Luis Sáenz de Heredia, Juan Piquer Simón, Antonio del Amo, José María Forqué or Pedro Masó. Mariné breaks down vicissitudes of her 140 films. With his technological advances, which he developed in parallel, he managed, for example, that there was no need to film again The big family, whose negative broke down almost at the end of filming. For years he has worked in restoration at the Spanish Film Library. “You always have to restore the negative. Doing it on the positive is another thing that we cannot call restoration. And we will see how we conserve the digital, which is proving worse storage support.” He has also taught about this work at ECAM. “After surviving the Civil War, I swore that my life would be dedicated to cinema,” he says in a powerful voice. And so it goes.

One projection per month to review a life

Frame of 'Supersonic Man'.

Frame of ‘Supersonic Man’.

The Spanish Film Library opened last Sunday a cycle dedicated to Juan Mariné, which will have a screening per month until 2021, and that he will be presenting himself. It started with the first movie he saw after achieving freedom, The great Ziegfeld (1936), and in January there will be a session with his first works. For February the Film Library will probably program the cult title Supersonic Man (1979), by Juan Piquer Simón, a Spanish Superman filmed with American actors. Mariné tells how they photographed Kronos / Supersonic to “fly”. It reveals the trick, as simple in its theory as complex in its execution. “I invented everything.” For that research passion, the filmmaker has received, among other awards, the Juan de la Cierva prize and the Spike of Honor of the Seminci.

Faith of errors

In a first version, it was said that The cat It had been the first color film in Spain. Actually, it was the first in Technicolor.


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