In Dark Laughter, Juan F. Egea provides a remarkable in-depth analysis of the dark comedy film genre in Spain, as well as a provocative critical engagement with the idea of national cinema, the visual dimension of cultural specificity, and the ethics of dark humor.
Egea begins his analysis with General Franco's dictatorship in the 1960s—a regime that opened the country to new economic forces while maintaining its repressive nature—exploring key works by Luis García Berlanga, Marco Ferreri, Fernando Fernán-Gómez, and Luis Buñuel. Dark Laughter then moves to the first films of Pedro Almodóvar in the early 1980s during the Spanish political transition to democracy before examining Alex de la Iglesia and the new dark comedies of the 1990s. Analyzing this younger generation of filmmakers, Egea traces dark comedy to Spain's displays of ultramodernity such as the Universal Exposition in Seville and the Barcelona Olympic Games.
At its core, Dark Laughter is a substantial inquiry into the epistemology of comedy, the intricacies of visual modernity, and the relationship between cinema and a wider framework of representational practices.
After General Francisco Franco died in 1975, Spanish cinema was bursting at the seams. Many film directors broke free from the ancient taboos which had reigned under Franco’s dictatorship, introducing characters who transgressed the traditional borders of social, cultural, and sexual identities. The women, homosexuals, transsexuals, and delinquents who were considered lost, dissonant bodies under Franco’s rule became the new protagonists of Spanish cinema.
“Here is a ‘book of passion’ on the metamorphoses of post-Francoist Spain as it catapulted into the contemporary world (1975–95). It is a book that questions the power of myths expressed through passionate bodies, in particular bodies who for too long were marginalized in traditional societies.” —Michèle Lagny, Université de Sorbonne Nouvelle Paris III
Silent film was universally understood and could be exported anywhere. But when “talkies” arrived, the industry began experimenting with dubbing, subtitling, and dual track productions in more than one language. Where language fractured the European film market, for Spanish-speaking countries and communities, it created new opportunities. In The Rise of Spanish-Language Filmmaking, Lisa Jarvinen focuses specifically on how Hollywood lost ground in the lucrative international Spanish-speaking audience between 1929 and 1939.
Hollywood studios initially trained cadres of Spanish-speaking film professionals, created networks among them, and demonstrated the viability of a broadly conceived, transnational, Spanish-speaking film market in an attempt to forestall the competition from other national film industries. By the late 1930s, these efforts led to unintended consequences and helped to foster the growth of remarkably robust film industries in Mexico, Spain, and Argentina. Using studio records, Jarvinen examines the lasting effects of the transition to sound on both Hollywood practices and cultural politics in the Spanish-speaking world. She shows through case studies based on archival research in the United States, Spain, and Mexico how language, as a key marker of cultural identity, led to new expectations from audiences and new possibilities for film producers.