MAR DEL PLATA – The subject tabled by moderator Pablo Conde for Thursday’s CarlosVermut/Nacho Vigalondo Mar del Plata Masterclass was Spain’s new cineaste vanguard. Whatever the movies which “Open Windows” Vigalondo and San Sebastian Golden Seashell winner Vermut (“Magical Girl”) next make – and Vigalondo gave at least one more detail of his monster-in-a-suit project: its title, “Colossal” – one thing seems certain: Both will make a large effort to be entertaining.
The major impression taken away from the duo’s far ranging response to Conde’s question, where topics ranged for example from Vigalondo’s self-confessed prowess at barfing to his memories of making a home-movie version of “Alive!” as a kid, was that both, if they ever gave up directing, could have a second-flush career as stand-up comics.
Both also made a pretty good stab, however, at guiding a Mar del Plata audience through some hallmarks of the novíssimo cine español, often a dirt-poor child of economic crisis and a government for which filmmaking does not seem a priority.
“The generation which Carlos Vermut represents is in a certain way a reaction to mine,” announced Vigalondo, citing Juan Antonio Bayona (“The Orphanage,” “The Impossible”), Borja Cobeaga (best known as the screenwriter of “Spanish Affair”), Koldo Serra (“The Backwoods”), Rodrigo Cortes (“Buried,” “Red Lights”) and Daniel Sanchez Arevalo (“Family United”) as fellow travellers in a slightly older wave of directors which broke through mid-last-decade.
For Vigalondo, “It’s Carlos Vermut’s generation which has really suffered Spain’s crisis full on. A few years back there was a low-cost festival in Spain that showcased some brilliant titles, such as Vermut’s ‘Diamond Flash,’ but many were shot in the houses of the directors’ parents. That’s a paradigm shift.”
Debuting with time-travel psychological drama “Timecrimes,” Vigalondo and his generation boasts multiple genre auteurs. “Colossal,” for instance, is “an old-school Kaiju,” the Godzilla genre,” Vigalondo has said on Twitter. Promising Film Divider this September that he’d make “the cheapest Godzilla movie ever,” “Godzilla in a costume, destroying cities, models all the time,” Vigalondo also intends to be “the man inside the costume,” a mark of the pleasure he takes in the process of film-making, he said at Mar del Plata
“Heavily influenced by the ‘80s, my generation practiced escapism, attempting to ensure that their films didn’t reflect their immediate reality. I don’t know if you know the term ‘gotele’ [popcorn ceiling]. My generation hated, tried to avoid ‘gotele,’ any ugliness nearby. But one of things that amazed me about ‘Diamond Flash,’ Vermut’s debut, is that it’s full of ’gotele,’” Vigalondo argued.
That, he added, characterizes not only Vermut but other directors of Vermut’s generation, such as Juan Cavestany (“Dispongo de barcos,” ”People in Places”) and Fernando Franco (“Wounded”).
“We really haven’t had any option to choose. It wasn’t as if somebody came along and said: ‘You can make a film for $20 million or $20,000, please choose,’ and I said: ‘Well, in that case, I’ll chose $20,000,” Vermut retorted.
He didn’t want to wait years to see if he could make “Diamond Flash” in a more conventional manner; the online distribution only for ‘Diamond Flash’ was because he didn’t receive any offers of theatrical distribution.
Two things, apart from friendship, do at least link Vigalondo and Vermut: One is the broadest gamut of influences and film tastes: Vermut cited Ingmar Bergman, Carlos Saura, Pedro Almodovar, Quentin Tarantino, and things Japanese, just for starters.
The other is how they’ll finish up financing their films in the future. Vigalondo is a local hero at Austin’s Fantastic Fest, as Vermut pointed out: Vermut’s star has risen fast in France on the back of “Magical Girl.” “Open Windows” is sold by Wild Bunch, “Magical Girl” by Films Distribution, two top notch Paris-based sales agents.
As Spain’s government still dithers on clarifying future state film financing systems, there is a danger of both, in film financing terms at least, emigrating abroad. Whether either would ever leave Madrid is another question. Vermut suggested he still needed its proximity for artistic inspiration.