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‘Money Heist’ – ‘La Casa de Papel’ – Creator Alex Pina: 10 Takes on Part 3

MADRID  — 15 months after “La Casa de Papel” (“Money Heist”) Part 2 hit Netflix in April 2018, “La Casa de Papel” is back. Part 3., Ep. 1 world premiered on July 11 in Madrid to an audience packed with cast and crew and Netflix execs, led by Ted Sarandos.

Part 3 hits the ground running, with the camera hugging the back of Arturo Román. The former feckless director of the Royal Mint of Spain emerges from a limousine, gallops down a red carpet, strides into a backstage corridor, greets sundry stagehands, and bursts on stage in his own show, converted into a motivational speaker.

The sequence shot lasts one minute five seconds, the following 13 shots just 33 seconds, as the cameras capture Román dolling out advice to reactionary middle class fans from every angle possible.

A far larger budget is one new big swing when it comes to Part 3. Another’s the geography.

“It takes courage not to get down on your knees in front of these terrorists,” a braggadocio Roman brays on stage in Madrid. “Those rats,” he adds, “who are still hiding in their holes.” Cut to Tokyo, sipping from a cocktail on a beach on a near deserted island, save for Rio and a meek indigenous family, on the Caribbean Guna Yala archipelago off Panama. Part 3 Ep. 1 settings also take in Argentina’s Pampa, Indonesia’s Java, the Philippines, Florence and Madrid.

Lying back in her beach-side hammock, Tokyo, still the show’s narrator, says that she’s spent more than two years “living a romantic movie,”·but, as she explains to Rio, “she needs noise, people, not knowing what tomorrow will bring,” to take off from the island on her own.

“I can be a formal girl for a long time. But little by little my naughty girl tank fills and I go Sputnik,” she explains over shots of her drinking and dancing to a street salsa band in Panama City.

A feminist action thriller, “La Casa de Papel” Part 3 has The Professor positioning the gang, via its Dali mask, as “the resistance, indignation, skepticism,” towards “the system.” But with six member of the gang now three couples, as in much melodrama, it mobilizes different responses to how, in terms of gender politics, this resistance should be organized. That looks like an ongoing debate which will run through the show.

"La casa de papel" "Money Heist" Season 3
CREDIT: Tamara Arranz Ramos

Four days before “Part 3” gets its global release on Netflix, on July 19, Variety chatted with creator Alex Pina to put together 10 Takes on Part 3:

1. ONE BIG NEW SWING: THE BUDGET

Though Netflix has not put a number to it, “La Casa de Papel” Part 3 could be the biggest-budgeted series per episode in the history of Spanish TV. Certainly, it allowed for Part 3 to shoot in multiple locations and also permitted sequences shot from most every angle, and sometimes a variety of formats.

“We had a higher ceiling for the imagination. ‘La Casa’ has always been very claustrophobic. We thought the opening stretches of Part 3 should be different, We’re always looking for an angle which viewers don’t expect. ‘La Casa’ has always had complicated shots. This time round they’re even more complicated,” says Pina, noting that Part 4 is currently shooting 45-minute episodes in 21-23 days, compared to the 14 days used to lens Parts 1 and 2’s 70-minute episodes. But they needed that. Shooting in the Bank of Spain, given the security measures, meant a huge effort in planning shots, Pina comments.

2. A FEMINIST ACTIONER

Everything happens in Part 3, as a result of Tokyo tiring of living what she describes as a “romantic movie.” Implicitly, she arguing to Rio her right and need to freedom, including sex if she wants it, outside their relationship. “Rio lets Tokyo go with a smile on his lips,” says Pina. “Given the times we’re in, it’s important to forefront that. We’re always interested in including a lot of issues in the series, even though on the surface it can taken as pure entertainment.”

3. O.K. BUT WHAT IS PART 3’S PLOT

Rio is captured by Panama patrol boats. The gang gets together to free him. How? By dealing a fatal blow to the system. What that is would be a spoiler. But you don’t have to have an MBA. to realize the heist this time round goes for the jugular of the capitalist system.

4. CHARACTER, CHARACTER

“As the world stands, TV series form the most important cultural movement of this century,” says Pina. He goes on: “What’s key is that series offer the possibility of developing characters over far longer narrative arcs. You can see characters transform,” he adds. “We always try to give characters multiple sides, which breaks viewers’ preconceptions. Villains can have good qualities, as we’ve seen with Berlin. That makes spectators far more interested in the series because at any moment any characters can change.”

5. TIME PLAY

Parts 1 and 2 played with time, Tokyo at one point narrating a flashback in a flashback. Once more upping the ante, Part 3 does so all the more. Ep. 1, for instance, shuttles between at least seven different time periods from 77 days before the new heist to three years, 73 days, 62 days, 50 days, the day of the heist, and five years before. That will settle down to five main time periods, says Pina. ”We want the series to grow and to be much better in many ways,” says Pina. He adds: “It’s a great challenge for the spectator to put together the puzzle. It allows you to change aesthetics, but also genre. You can be at the climax of the bank heist, then cut to a scene with the same character, exploring their sentiments, or even to comedy. You can move the viewers this way and that, so that the series is never monotonous.”

6. LATINO AND PROUD OF IT

At a June press conference, Pina talked about the perfect heist being an “Anglo-Saxon” sub-genre, but “the big bet or big identity of the series is “Latino.” “What the Latin world gives you are much greater affective dynamics: the passion of friendship, feelings, love. That gives a far greater tension to the mix between a perfect crime, which has to function like clockwork, and characters who live their passions so intensely and impulsively.”

"La casa de papel" "Money Heist" Season 3
CREDIT: Tamara Arranz

7. AND REDOLANTLY SPANISH

“Jarana,” says Rio to Tokyo, as she bids goodbye leaving the knoll. “Al solomillo” (something like: “Get to the steak part of the menu”) Nairobi urges The Professor, after the gang gets together, as he rabbits on about rules of engagement. Just a decade ago, TV series made in Spanish in Spain were dubbed into neutral Spanish for distribution in Latin America. “La Casa de Papel” Part 3 revels in its Spanish Spanish. “It’s a recognition of a world of 700 million of Spanish-speakers which is beginning to have a lot of weight in the world,” Pina says. He goes on: “I was in Shanghai the other day, walked into a bar and ‘Despacito’ was playing. In music, in fiction of course, we’re exporting a way of seeing the world. The river’s Latino, but it’s also Mediterranean, South American, Brazilian and Portuguese. Everybody’s beginning to export fiction which is going down well with viewers who before watched only English-language fiction.

8. PUSHING A MODERNIST ENVELOPE

Holed up in a spectacular cliffside Italian monastery, The Professor puts on a slide show, showing the gang shots of protestors in Rio and Buenos Aires, a women’s movement demonstration, its members wearing Casa de Papel red overalls,  a soccer stadium in Saudi Arabia with a huge Dali mask banner. The Dalí mask “has inspired a lot of people,” the Professor says. But these scenes are for real, as the series dissolves the fiction/reality divide. Drama series are often compared to 19th century novels. “La Casa de Papel” Part 3, in its unreliable narrator – Tokyo blames herself wrongly for Rio’s capture – its time jumps, its narrative complexity – is modernist novel fare.

9. WELCOME TO THE FUTURE: NETFLIX CINEMA THEATER SERIES?

It’s almost a cliché that high-end shows these days have cinematographic standards. But that does have knock ons. Caught in a cinema theater, Madrid’s Cine Callao,  Ep. 1 is a far more immersive experience than when seen on a laptop, let alone a cell-phone. Part 3 will indeed see limited theatrical release on July 18, with Ep. 1 and 2 playing at 11 cinema theaters around Spain. But the real symbiosis between cinema and series will come in the heightened quality of home entertainment, Pina argues. “We’ve now got 8K. The quality of sound and image will most probably increase so much over the next three years that series will displace cinema all the more,” says Pina. “The future of platforms is in the quality of TV sets. It’s already happening.”

10. O.K., BUT IS BERLIN STILL ALIVE?

To the chase. Yes, Berlin has a big scene in Ep. 1. But it’s a flashback five years before. Yet one dialog in  Ep. 2 at least hints at an Easter Egg as to another possible end to Andrés’ denouement in Part 2. Maybe that’s wishful thinking. But watch and dream on.

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