MADRID — 1975: Gen. Francisco Franco, a remnant of ’30s fascism, lies dying in Madrid, plugged into an array of medical apparati. To one side of him lies the mummified arm of the 16th-century Saint Therese, on his bed the mantle of the Virgin of Pilar. Franco’s death bed agony seems the stuff of film.
Finally it will be made into a movie: “Franco,” to be produced by Andres Vicente Gomez’s Lolafilms and toplining the grand guignol Catalan theater troupe Els Joglars. “Franco” marks many milestones: After six months of talks with co-owner Telefonica, hammering out a capital increase and a new shareholding mix, Gomez’s Lola is moving into production on a slate of films.
“Franco” will tackle some taboos. It also underscores some currents at the Spanish B.O.. Lola is back in the business of greenlighting films. Shunted from Telefonica’s Admira to new division Telefonica Contenidos, since June it has a new share structure (Telefonica 70%, Gomez 30%), a capital increase of €18 million ($17.1 million), and a new, slimmed board, chaired by Emilio Gilolmo and made up of TC prexy Luis Abril, TC’s Ele Juarez and Eduardo Alonso.
Lola is in talks with Canada’s Jeremy Podeswa (“Touch”) to helm poet Robert Graves bio “Loving the Goddess”; director Bille August (“Best Intentions”) remains attached to “The Maid of Buttermere”; Fernando Trueba is once more contemplating a re-make of RKO’s noirish meller “They Won’t Believe Me”; and a U.S. screenwriter will re-draft Luis Llosa’s “The Feast of the Goat,” skedded to roll next spring.
Lola has taken a minority stake in Aisling Walsh’s Irish reformatory drama “Song for a Raggy Boy” and is co-producing Aurelio De Laurentiis’ Chrismtas pic “Natale sul Nilo.” But “Franco” will be the first new fully Lola pic to go before the cameras. Directed by Albert Boadella, it promises a delirious take on a delirious dictator (played by Josep Maria Fonsere), seguing scenes of the senile Franco and his servile entourage, Franco’s febrile memories, and cutaways to Spaniards awaiting Franco’s death. Self-styled jesters, Els Joglars have a habit of roughing up old wounds: The deepest irony of “Franco,” as Boadella puts it, is that Franco died in his bed. “As a generation, we didn’t have the energy to topple him,” he says.
“Franco” plays off Spain’s growing rage for retro. It also says something about the Spanish market. Or Gomez’s take on it. For years now, the ground has been falling away beneath midrange foreign pics in Spain. Hits in Spain have either been true-blue boffo barnstormers (read “Spider-Man,”) or out-of-the-blue arthouse sleepers: (read “The Son of the Bride”).
But for Gomez, the same trend is working away at local pics, too. “Spanish cinema’s problem now is that it tries to be both commercial and art, and it ends up being neither,” he argues.
Whether “Franco” turns out as high art or a scandal-buster remains to be seen. Pic rolls Oct. 22.