Històries sense argument. el cinema de Pere Portabella
The Films of Pere Portabella
The producer and filmmaker Pere Portabella (Figures, 1929) is renown for ongoing participation in cinematic and artistic practices since the fifties, and for his links to anti-Franco movements and his subsequent active involvement in the political and institutional sphere during the transition to democracy. Portabella’s films combine the social and political commitment of avant-garde film and art with the languages of cinematic rupture of the so-called “New Cinema” that emerged in the second half of the fifties.
Plotless Stories offered an overview of Portabella’s career through the articulation of a series of spaces and exhibition registers. His complete filmography was projected continuously in the Museum galleries, along with films by other filmmakers such as Michelangelo Antonioni, Ingmar Bergman, Luis Buñuel, Jean-Luc Godard, Alain Resnais, Roberto Rossellini, Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet and Antonio Saura. A documentary archive of films and videos was also available for consultation, along with a reading area offering an extensive bibliographic selection. Debates that suggested new historical approaches to Portabella’s body of work were also held in the archive space during the exhibition.
In parallel, a film programme was organised at the MACBA Auditorium with double sessions that linked Portabella’s work to that of other filmmakers. As a whole, the exhibition invited spectators to reflect on contemporary ways of narrating memory and history through audiovisual practices.
This expository project about the career of Pere Portabella (Barcelona, 1929), showed the different stages of his filmography as a director and producer since the Fifties. His work provided an opportunity to take an in-depth look into the practices of artistic and political division that took place in the Sixties and Seventies, or into the aspects of less explored periods of Spanish film history. The project occupied several areas in the Museum and was characterised by linking different cataloguing, exhibition and debate devices of a pronounced processive nature, which included a monographic publication about Portabella, a freely accessible archive of films and publications with public sessions about the archive's materials, and a film programme and presentations in the auditorium, all of which were supplemented by a seminar.
Pere Portabella, a producer and director, is renowned for his presence in cinematographic and artistic practices since the Fifties, and for his connection with anti-Franco movements and subsequent dedication –in the so-called democratic transition– to the ambit of political and institutional affairs, until resuming his relationship with film at the end of the Eighties. He was the founder of the production company called Films 59, which engendered several fundamental works in the development of critical Spanish film, such as Los golfos (Carlos Saura, 1959) or El cochecito (Marco Ferreri, 1960), until it was forcibly closed down by the Franco regime after the huge success of Viridiana (Luis Buñuel, 1961) in Cannes. In the mid Sixties he was connected with the founding nucleus of the Barcelona School, though subsequently he distanced himself from it.
In the early Seventies, Pere Portabella formed part of the Grup de Treball, a singular reference in Catalonia of the local implantation of conceptual languages and institutional critique. The highly controversial approach that the group took towards the statute for works of art, the art institution and the social figure of the artist is reflected in the short films Portabella made about Miró –both the trilogy Aidez l’Espagne (also known as Miró de la guerra/Miró 37), Premios Nacionales and Miró l’altre (1969), and the subsequent Miró tapís and Miró forja (1973)– and in the rigorous language and institutional exploration that characterises Vampir-Cuadecuc and Umbracle.
In 1976, Portabella shot Informe general sobre algunas cuestiones de interés para una proyección pública, a film that tries to portray the political panorama at the time (resuming his brief brushes with "militant" and political witness documentaries of the earlier years) and which, in spite of its liberalising tone, was never shown. Over a decade later, Pont de Varsòvia/Puente de Varsovia (1989) talks about the state of culture and politics after the historical cycle that ended with the fall of the Berlin Wall, denying the assumption that we are witnessing the end of History.
In an area located in one of the museum's halls, Portabella's complete filmography was shown continuously and an "à la carte" selection could be made from an archive of films and publications. While the exhibition was on, the archive held sessions for meetings and debate entitled Little Stories about Film, in which Javier Codesal, Giulia Colaizzi, Fèlix Fanés and Joan-Enric Lahosa will offer their particular "guidance" or journeys through the contents, occasionally including new materials.
A film programme in the museum's auditorium was the final area of this project. It was a thematic series of viewings presented by critics, historians and directors, organised into double sessions, a kind of montage work based on films directed by Portabella and other films by Godard, Bergman, Straub/Huillet, Alexander Kluge, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Glauber Rocha, or films produced by Portabella, like those by Antonio Maenza or José Luis Guerín.