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Monday, 16 April 2012

¡Viva! Festival: Spanish Comedies

As part of the ¡VIva! Festival, on Sunday evening a one hour talk was given, exploring the curious world of Spanish comedies. The presentation featured various clips from different films being screened at festival and was delivered by Peter Buse, Professor of Visual Culture at the University of Salford, and Nuria Triana Toribio, Senior Lecturer in Spanish Cinema at the University of Manchester.

Firstly though, a thought-provoking question was put to the audience: Does comedy travel?

Well, occasionally comedy does travel. Whether it’s because two countries have a similar sense of humour, or the filmmakers have struck comedy gold and found something universally funny. Examples of this would be the very British Monty Python films that were applauded worldwide (except by Catholics, obviously).

However, Spanish comedies have never really travelled well and the lecturers put this down to misrepresentation. They claimed that for decades the only Spanish comedies to be seen by international audiences were cheap and crude with unfunny slapstick humour and scantily-clad women. Basically a Spanish Carry On film.

Moving on to the films, the first extract was from Primos, a film about a man who is taken on a road trip by his two drunken cousins after being jilted on his wedding day. Like most road trip films, it appears very episodic, but with its contemporary outlook and a handful of overly crude laughs, it has an almost Hangover-like feel to it.

The second clip was from El Gran Vazquez, a comedy based on a famous Spanish comic book writer. It has a 12A certificate, which tells you not expect anything obscene, but I still wouldn’t put this down as a family film. Despite its mild-mannered approach it still made me laugh, showing you don’t have to be rude to be funny.

Both of these films show an active attempt to move away from the stereotypical Spanish comedy and into a more contemporary area. From the clips I saw I wouldn’t mind watching either of these films, and the informative talk showed me something I’d never realised before: you can be funny with subtitles.