He would become a blockbuster director, but he emerged from the culture of fanzines and comics. underground: Álex de la Iglesia shook the national fantasy film scene, immersed in a certain crisis due to lack of investment and generational changes to filmmakers such as Jorge Grau, Jose Ramón Larraz or Juan Piquer Simón, with his first feature films. And it did so in those early nineties when mass audiovisuals began to be taken over by culture. freak, when Batman, Darkman and other masked heroes began to mark a possible path for that Hollywood that would end up dominated by superheroes.
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Co-produced by none other than Pedro Almodóvar, Mutant action it was one of the first industrially ambitious works to emerge from the state freak culture, a kind of overproduction by Spanish standards. Now recovered on Blu-ray media thanks to the Cameo publisher, it was a local contribution and with its own accent to the currents of this trend that has ended up temporarily becoming hegemonic. De la Iglesia included obvious references to Star Wars The Alien, but he marked them with a very black castizo humor (Berlanguiano?) in tune with the misanthropic cruelties of the first films of the Coen brothers or Sam Raimi.
Spanish cyberpunk in a posh future
If the cinema slasher he talked to us about nerds who took revenge for their social and sexual exclusion by stabbing the athletes and cheerleaders of their institute, Mutant action meant a notoriously festive code-making and sci-fi of the resentments of the outcast. In a dystopian future that appears outlined in a schematic way, the posh came to dominate (more) the world. And the resistance took the form of a terrorist group of people with lameness and humps, even Siamese twins.
This diverse band, played by comedians such as Álex Angulo or Antonio Resines, shot into a luxury wedding conceived by a crazy designer in the throes of the Madrid scene (with a visit from Bibiana Fernández and Rossy de Palma included). The plot of the film was simple to summarize: the protagonists kidnapped the daughter of a multimillionaire (and aristocratic) businessman, they pretend to receive a ransom and organize the exchange in a distant mining colony located on the planet Asturias. Obviously, things were complicated, because the characters conceived by De la Iglesia tend to fail and suffer.
The Bilbao filmmaker and his co-screenwriter Jorge Guerricaechevarría distilled the possible resentment of the freak through the alembic of a foul humor, materialized in the corresponding song of the musical group Def Con Dos (“A sound mind in the body crippled, ”its members sang). The result gushed out in the form of a fake blood scarlet geyser with gore garnishes. His boisterous show of oddities could incorporate traces of painful reality (some of the group’s prints recall ETA’s iconography), but it was more dominated by references to fictions (musical theme from Mission Impossible included).
The winking, grotesque content did not imply any aesthetic sloppiness. Carlos Gusí’s photography shone, carefully lit, in the urban landscapes that can be seen at the beginning of the film. Like the later The Day of the Beast, Mutant action It showed us dark streets, throbbing with police and paramilitary violence, which can be taken as caricatural variants of the oppressive Basque cinema they represented. Butterfly wings The Blindly, the first films of Juanma Bajo Ulloa and Daniel Calparsoro. These scenarios also connected, of course, with the depressing atmospheres of contemporary cyberpunk iconography, of its futures of extreme social inequalities and technological ruins.
A mutant narrative
What started out as a heist movie quickly turned into a thriller located in the metal corridors of a cargo spacecraft (with Alien in memory).
Later, the action was transformed into an itinerant adventure located in an arid planet that refers to Star Wars, but that could have appeared in an episode of the original series Star Trek. And there aggressive locals break in, local version of the rednecks monstrous of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre The The Hills Have Eyes. The result is almost a narrative zapping, a mutant narrative that perhaps loses its agility in a reasonably agonizing final third that reflects the suffering of the characters.
Throughout the tour, the abundance of black and cruel humor generates a pointed viewing. The role of the female lead can be read as a hurtful and misogynistic joke or as a satire on male invisibility. Even when the abducted woman has very important information to convey, she cannot speak because she is ignored … and because her lips are stapled.
The aggressive lust of the inhabitants of the hypermasculinized planet Asturias can refer both to the spaces of traditional machismo and to the slimy drifts of the temples of culture freak of the time and, perhaps, of today. This fanciful representation of extreme androcentrisms that normalize rape does not have to be read as a proto-feminist satire, but rather seems one more emanation of the acid gaze of an author who likes to wallow in tragicomic mud, to abound in the most miserable behaviors of his human-looking winks (and sometimes a certain breath). Be that as it may, De la Iglesia shunned images sexploitation, the absurd female nudes in the style of the Corman factory and other schools of B-series cinema, and any eroticization of female suffering.
The Day of the Beast would offer a more homogeneous story than Mutant action. The choice was awarded with collection figures much higher than those obtained with the previous work. Together with the producer Andrés Vicente Gómez, its director would later attempt a kind of American adventure through Durango loss, a road movie commercially unsuccessful that would mark the way forward. With the exception of another English-speaking getaway (The Oxford crimes), its author would never move away from his cultural sphere … until now, because his new film Venicephrenia it will be another production in English language and oriented to compete in the international market.