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  • Pere Portabella: hacia una política del relato cinematográfico
  • Bryan Cameron
Hernández, Rubén. Pere Portabella: hacia una política del relato cinematográfico. Madrid: Errata Naturae, 2008. 313 pp.

Rubén Hernández makes it clear in the introduction to Pere Portabella: hacia una política del relato cinematográfico that his book should not be read as a monograph of Portabella’s filmic career but rather as an essay “sobre la relación entre lo estético y lo político que tiene lugar en el ámbito del relato” that posits “el cine de Portabella como vehículo privilegiado de su reflexión” (15). While it would be difficult to fault the clarity with which Hernández explains his methodology, the deliberate, if reductive, homage he pays to the essayistic works of Michel de Montaigne remains curiously underdeveloped throughout the remainder of the book. In moving beyond the introduction and its belabored transparency, Hernández’s emphasis on his essayistic engagement comes off as little more than carefully plotted authorial strategy, a preemptive attempt to exempt the collection from criticism that might take issue with his lack of interest in constructing a chronological or thematic framework for Portabella’s cinematic oeuvre.

Hernández coyly underplays the text’s objectives by claiming that he seeks to create nothing more than “una tentativa: una propuesta de lectura para el cine de Portabella dentro de un contexto filosófico, estético y cinematográfico” (17). The construction of these contexts, as one might expect, is immensely revealing. By defining the aesthetic and political dimensions of Portabella’s cinematic project in relation to theoretical interventions by Aristotle, Theodor Adorno, Adorno and [End Page 569] Max Horkheimer, Walter Benjamin, Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari, Jacques Derrida, Jean-François Lyotard, Guy Debord, Umberto Eco, Michel Foucault, Friedrich Nietzsche, Roland Barthes, Jacques Rancière, and Paul Ricoeur, alongside the written works of filmmakers such as Jean-Luc Godard, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Luis Buñuel, Sergei Eisenstein, and Jean-Pierre Lajournade, Hernández charts a laudable and intriguing course that clearly seeks to advance the scholarship on the Catalan filmmaker’s works. The result of Hernández’s work, however, is rather mixed. The book’s vast interpretive framework, while commendable for its ambition, ultimately devours the voice of its author, leaving the reader to make sense of a plethora of theoretical approaches that rarely coalesce to achieve a meaningful synthesis.

The first half of Pere Portabella presents an introduction to the cinematic career of the Catalan auteur whose professional history is as defined by its political dissidence as it is by its immersion in avant-garde aesthetic practices. Hernández breaks this section of the text into seven brief essays that address many of the highlights of the filmmaker’s fifty-year career, such as the infamous 1972 exhibition of Vampir- Cuadecuc (Spain 1970) at the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art, Portabella’s work as producer of Buñuel’s incendiary Viridiana (Spain 1961), his lack of engagement with the Barcelona School, and the similarity of directorial tactics employed by both Buñuel and Portabella. Hernández’s book forgoes analyses of El sopar (Spain 1974), Pont de Varsòvia (Spain 1989), and Die Stille vor Bach (Spain 2007) in favor of No compteu amb els dits (Spain 1967), Nocturn 29 (Spain 1968), Vampir- Cuadecuc (Spain 1970), Umbracle (Spain 1970), and Informe general (Spain 1976). It is rather unfortunate, though, that this section’s overly reduced chapters, whose average length is just over twelve pages, lack the depth to properly scrutinize such compelling and intricately crafted texts. The scholarship presented in the book’s first half left this reader desirous of further exploration on the collaborative nature of Portabella’s works (particularly the influence of Joan Brossa and Carles Santos), Portabella’s participation in the Grup de Treball, and the tenuously categorized Barcelona School. Regarding this last matter, I have serious reservations concerning not only Hernández’s appraisal of the Barcelona School’s filmic output as nothing more than a “concepción banalizada y descafeinada de l’art pour l’art” (65), but also with his wholesale acceptance of...


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pp. 569-572
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