Who will be able, Mario, to count the days of the past?

When in 1984 Juan Carlos Frugone and I myself told Mario camus We wanted him to be the protagonist of the first cycle that we organized as those responsible for the Valladolid Film Week, he was very surprised. He said that he did not deserve such a tribute, that he was a simple film professional, a craftsman who had never claimed to be an author, in the full sense that the term was given. It was not an attitude of false modesty, but it responded to a humility that Mario always displayed, perhaps driven by a congenital shyness that made him flee from the spotlight. And what he had come to do, between 1977 and 1983, the basic trilogy made up of nothing less than The days of the past, Beehive and The holy innocents, with his television series on “Fortunata and Jacinta” in between.

It was the reason that Frugone titled the book published by Valladolid as “Occupation of humble people …”, also the first to be dedicated to the Santander filmmaker. He responded to a phrase from Camus himself, when he defended that “you have to get used to never completely dominating our work. For this reason, this office of ours is a profession of humble people. At the end of the day, what it is about is interpreting and explaining human life and behavior ”. An attitude that he maintained throughout his 86 years and his infinite works for film and television.

Although what really motivated Mario was to write, whether it was for himself, for others like Carlos Saura or Pilar Miró, either in original scripts or adapting works that he admired, work in which he had no one at his level. His passion, even more than cinema, was reading and writing, he had read everything, he had analyzed and squeezed everything to the fullest. In an article for “Diario 16” shortly after we met him for the Valladolid cycle, on July 22, 1984 exactly, and entitled “Books by day, movies at night”, he recalled from his childhood that “my evolution in The matter of readings and the passage from the comics represented in detail with clouds of dry and simple dialogues to the arid pages of books where there was no illustration, meant the need to look for images for those narratives that lacked them, accustomed as we were to see and learn about the adventures and heroes of the first readings ”. In other words, reaching the cinema through the written word.

Another personal memory: when Diego Galán and I went to interview him for the magazine “Triunfo” at his chalet with shelves full of behind the Plaza de Castilla, what he insisted on talking about was not his films (“what he had to say, I have already said in them ”, he argued), but rather of the books that had fascinated him, of the novels that we could not stop reading, of characters and more characters that had remained in his memory. Perhaps because he saw us as two pipiolos – until the end he called me by the diminutive of my name …, I do not know why – that we still needed literary indoctrination, the truth is that in the three long hours that the meeting lasted we had to extract him with corkscrew a series of phrases about cinema that allowed us to fill out our interview.

Always had Mario camus a certain didactic vocation. As demonstrated by receiving the Goya of Honor in 2011 with a splendid speech, so reviled by some due to its length that, according to them, it broke the television rhythm of the ceremony. Few attended to a few paragraphs that, above all, were a passionate defense of the profession of filmmaker, at a time precisely when, after The meadow of stars, of 2007, the producers no longer trusted him despite having very promising projects. A profession in which he believed at face value, like how many directors emerged from the Official School of Cinematography and who, in the 60s, formed the “New Spanish Cinema”, attacked precisely by those who never managed to do anything beyond coffee shop talks.

By extension, Mario was always concerned about the health and continuity of our cinema. One day, while we were finishing preparing the 2007 Film Law at the ICAA, he told me specifically: “The problems of Spanish cinema would end if the dubbing of North American films were eliminated.” He, who was always a defender of classic Hollywood cinema, saw in his appropriation of the language an element of abusive commercial imbalance. When I tried to argue that the disappearance of dubbing would ruin movie theaters, because the Spanish public had become accustomed to it since the 1940s, his answer was pronounced harshly: “What happens is that you are not going to have the courage to to do it, as nobody has ever had it in this country ”. Possibly he was right …

Now, when Camus is no longer with us, when – as in the appointment he opened The days of the past– It is worth wondering about the difficulty of approaching it, I think that nothing has expressed in images with such determination what the caciquismo and the class struggle meant during the Franco regime as The holy innocents. Nor has anything reflected us as in a lucid mirror the moral and economic misery of the postwar period as Beehive. Nothing has brought us closer, wrapped in a beautiful love story, to the underground world of the maquis as The days of the past. Nothing better communicated the anguish of a fugitive like With the east wind. Nothing has spoken to us with such subtlety about the internal tears of terrorism as Shadows in a battle…, for not making this list exhaustive. Yes, many times in the company of Delibes, Cela or Aldecoa, but not always. Mario would only be considered a craftsman, a applied professional, but if this is not an author, who is really?

In case you have any doubts, please read his stories, compiled by Valnera Literaria in volumes entitled “29 stories” or “These things remained”. The clarity, eloquence and poetic character of a good part of his cinema are also evident in them. Reviewing his films, reading his narratives, admiring his images and his prose is the best way to remember the great Mario Camus.

***Fernando Lara He was director of the Valladolid Festival and general director of Cinematography


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