Friday, January 21

Gil Parrondo, one hundred years in the kingdom of the forgotten



To this kingdom of the forgotten belongs Gil Parrondo, perhaps an invisible man for the majority of spectators but fundamental to understand the history of our cinematography. To peek into his work is to attend a museum at twenty-four frames per second with canvases of all themes and architectural spaces in plane and counter-plane. The complete catalog of his filmography contains more than two hundred films and a long list of awards in the category of artistic direction, including two Oscars and four Goyas. This is the year of its centenary and, despite institutional omissions, it is an unbeatable moment to rescue it and return it to the place it deserves.

To find the starting point of this famous decorator we have to go to Madrid during the Civil War. Gil Parrondo found in the Academy of San Fernando a refuge to combat the bombs and hunger that stalked the capital. There among the languid faces of El greco and the hells of GoyaHe became an extraordinary painter although we will never know to what extent. Comedies George Cukor, the tap dances of Fred Astaire Y Ginger Rogers and the winter look of Greta Garbo they intruded on his life and took him away forever.

He couldn’t get off to a better start in the world of cinema. Sigfrido Burmann, perhaps the great forerunner of the decoration of our performing arts, showed him the secrets of the trade and the power of small details. The scarcity of resources of those years served Parrondo to sharpen his ingenuity, henceforth his best ally. A good example of this, already in the mid-fifties, are The Red Fish, a cloudy film, halfway between the surrealism of Buñuel and the American noir, where its scenography takes us into a territory that goes beyond madness. Surely his first masterpiece.

The definitive step in his career came with the arrival of Samuel Bronston to our country. The famous producer found in Spain a low-cost paradise for his projects with the addition that all the landscapes of the planet were at his fingertips: centuries-old cities, kilometer-long beaches, African deserts, rugged mountains and snow-covered forests without leaving our borders . In this way our geography became one of the most important enclaves of Hollywood and Parrondo in a fundamental piece. In these years he became great collaborating in Pride and Passion, El Cid, 55 days in Beijing The The fall of the Roman Empire which was also the fall of the Bronston Empire due to the economic disaster caused.

Recognition worldwide was not long in coming. His name was already running around the offices of the big studios. Everyone had surrendered to the reenactment of Moscow held to Doctor Zhivago. Despite the Soviet realism, it was still a Madrid street interrupted by tram tracks and a plaster Kremlin reigning in the background. In this context came his two Oscars for Patton (1971) and Nicolas and Alejandra (1972). Although the greatest honor received in his career was the possibility of sharing a poster with George Cukor, one of the directors of his life, in Travel with my aunt. Third consecutive nomination, this time without success.

At this time he had the option of making the final leap to Hollywood. He could have moved into one of those Los Angeles mansions, been one of the Metro or Paramount untouchables, but he chose to stay in Spain. In return, some top-level directors came to our country to work with him. Parrondo, from his many trips through our territory, had been making an encyclopedia of locations and seemed to find solutions for any story. In this sense, the sober beauty of Robin y Marian, or the seas of sand in The wind and the Lion.

In the last stage of his career, Gil Parrondo was reunited with his friend Jose Luis Garci with whom I had already filmed Start over. Both were in top shape and from their union came several of the cathedrals of our cinema. We talk about that luminous convent of Lullaby, of the wounds caused by honor before the cliffs of Asturias in Grandpa, and of that beautiful misery, tap dance included, which is Tiovivo c.1950.

With this filmography it is more than evident that Spanish cinema has an outstanding debt with the centenary of Gil Parrondo. The Academy lost a wonderful opportunity last edition of the Goya Awards. Centered on Luis Garcia Berlanga, they also forgot Fernando Fernan Gomez (What a vintage that of 1921). This is a disturbing fact. There is something in us that prevents us from celebrating our teachers. We don’t even remember them dead anymore.


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