Galiardo is tall, dashing and in good shape for his age ? he?s just turned 69. Equally able to unleash a remarkably deep, booming voice or whisper gentle words, this troubled leading man realized one day that the best therapy is on stage or the big screen. An actor, producer and cinematographer, when he talks about his great friend Rafael Azcona, he still uses the present tense. Now, with that departed scriptwriter?s adaptation of Valle?Inclán?s texts, Juan Luis Galiardo returns to the civil war trenches in the film Esperpentos, directed by José Luis García Sánchez.FILMOTECH: Don Quixote, Knight Errant; Lázaro de Tormes, La Regenta, Miguel and William (about an imaginary friendship between Cervantes and Shakespeare), and now Esperpentos ? Would you say there was something novelistic or literary about you?
J.L. GALIARDO: Well, I think that for a long time I was immersed in the pain of my own little drama ? my mother?s premature death. And I, like everyone else, am the product of an Oedipus complex... For me, life, reality, motivation, all this is to be found in the family. Actually, everything one carries around inside. And as well, to explore and understand all that pain I carried around, I have been looking into the Greek classics. So perhaps, at heart, I do have something of a literary character. Certainly, in my life things have happened to me which have turned me into a character (although my friend Azcona says that if Dostoyevsky wrote about my life it wouldn?t even take up half a page). What?s more, an actor isn?t a creator, but a vehicle, a medium for the emotions: the glance of a woman, love, the emotions aroused by death... all these feelings are present in all the great characters from literature, and I can play them because as soon as someone gives me a role, I know what they?re going through.F: So, today you could identify with absolutely any role which you were offered?
JLG: These days I could, yes, because I can understand absolutely everything people tell me. In the film Clandestinos
, for example, I played a homosexual, and I could understand what there was in this man?s look as he contemplated the naked body of a young man. I understand everything now, because I have grasped that love and understanding have nothing to do with taboos or money. Love is the home of the soul, and it is there that you find the answers to the conflicts driving the great characters. They are continually searching for love, understanding or recognition.F: So, is there any character from literature that you would have liked to play, or want to play? Maybe Raskolnikov from Crime and Punishment, as a tribute to Azcona?
JLG: At the moment, the most important thing for me is my theatrical project, L?Avare
by Molière, with the Centro Dramático Nacional, directed by Jorge Lavelli. We?ve been preparing it for two years, and next year we?ll be off on a three-year tour with it. With this play I can use humor to depict one of the great tragedies of the human condition: avarice. But right now, that?s my only ambition. As my grandmother used to say ? and she was from Andalusia, ?Look, son, one thing at a time.? So that?s what I do: one thing at a time.F: L?Avare ? The Miser ? that?s actually quite relevant in these times of economic crisis, isn?t it?
JLG: That?s right, I think it?s a very good time to take another look at this subject, from Molière?s humorous point of view; because I?m sure avarice has made our crisis worse. In any case, it?s another good idea from my friend José Luis García Sánchez (the director of Esperpentos
) ? it was him who suggested it. But, yes, in this play we find envy, the wretched relationships we form, and a bit of all our deadly sins. And, what?s more, for me, it helps me fight against my own meanness and my animal side, because my self-esteem and self-fulfilment are in my daily work on the stage. F: Coming back to Esperpentos, do you think that due to his very particular way of portraying Spanish society Rafael Azcona could be said to be a 20th century Valle-Inclán?
JLG: Perhaps. I think that above all Rafael Azcona is a writer ? a great writer. And there are scriptwriters who hide their lack of literary talent in technique. Of course, Rafael has always been a great friend of mine, and he has been a great comfort to me in hard times. I?ve had a very infantile relationship with him, as though we were children; I looked to him to guide me and now I apply his advice to my day-to-day life. F: What situation or person do you find ?esperpentic? or absurd in society today?
JLG: There are quite a few! One who departed recently called George Bush a man who even walks as though the law of gravity doesn?t apply to him. He used to parade about in the most pathetic manner. But, here in Spain, too, we have folks who live permanently surrounded by controversy and insult. Politicians, for example, who instead of working together devote themselves to aggression and mud-slinging. There is so much absurdity... But I don?t want to name any names, because I don?t want to deprive them of the honour of their own absurdity. And, these people are both men and women, although it?s almost always more the men. F: Given the scenario of Spanish cinema?s permanent crisis, for this film you?ve gone for a different distribution method. You set off with 20 copies, and the whole cast will be promoting from it city to city. Are you trying to get back to the simplicity of the traditional touring theatre company to attract more people to the cinema?
JLG: Yes, that?s the idea. Of course this isn?t a film we?re trying to ram down people?s throats with 350 copies. What we want to do with this kind of distribution is get closer to people again, in these times when distribution and exhibition are so complicated. F: And what do you think Ángeles González Sinde can contribute as the new Minister of Culture?
JLG: A lot. Ángeles grew up in this little world. Her grandfather, her father, her uncle... Her family is full of filmmakers. And she doesn?t just know the film industry from the inside, but she also has international vision ? she studied in Los Angeles. I think she can contribute a lot and bring a new approach to many of the circumstances affecting Spanish cinema now. F: How do you see the fight against piracy? Do you think offering films to the public on the Internet legally has a future?
JLG: Yes, I think that?s the line we?ll have to take. A lot of people have put a lot of time and effort into this, and we?ve all fought hard. Above all, I hope that with support from institutions and associations, this will be the way to bring legal dignity to our cinema, and above all it will allow us to stop slinging mud at each other. To the public we look like thieves stealing their wallets, using that horrible word ? ?subsidy.? That word represents an act of aggression against citizens, because it implies giving precedence to minorities over the majorities and you can?t do that. The word subsidy has to go, and we have to start talking about aid or supplementary payments. Marsé says, for example, that Spanish cinema isn?t in crisis due to downloading, but due to lack of talent. But you can?t be so simplistic. We have to make a full analysis with conclusions which fill up a whole page, not three lines, not a headline. So I think that in terms of offering alternatives to piracy and looking for solutions, your portal does very serious work. F: Thank you very much. ?We?re working on it?, as a certain former President would say.
JLG: That?s right ? we?re working on it.