Sunday, January 6, 2008

Morena Clara

Aside from the fact that the late Lola Flores was the greatest singer and dancer in Spanish history, I would love her just for her role in the deeply camp, ironic and subtext-heavy Morena Clara. So many of the movies made under Franco found ways to undermine and work against the draconian censorship, but to me the ways in which this movie deals with gender, class and race politics is astounding. Lola plays an insouciant gypsy girl who is taken from her slovenly and lazy gypsy relations and adopted by a dandyish andalusian aristocrat in order to "re-educate" her in his lovely Orientalist style country estate. The opening sequence gives a surreal survey of Spanish history with the two leads - Lola and Fernando Fernan Gomez - cast in various historical guises: for example, Lola as a Moorish temptress and he as a victorious Christian conqueror.

You get the picture. The subjugated others are translated into a fiery female. It's so obvious that it's priceless. The whole concept of "reeducation" is also ironic because this is during a time when the regime was literally trying to reeducate those unfortunate enough to have been Republicans still living in the country. The title is also telling a dark light woman- she is not quite Gypsy/not quite Spanish (ie. White) a native informant who moves between the big house and the slave quarters, mediating between her marginalized family members and friends who are usually shown lounging in the fields or breaking into flamenco song and dance - the Spanish version of minstrels. Black skin/white masks - she is supposed to be lucky because she can "pass" and the white aristocrat welcomes her into his home in order to redeem her.

In this scene, Lola performs the title song, and in none-too-subtle foreshadowing, we see how the white aristocratic and rational male is overwhelmed by her sultry passion. It's hilarious.

No comments: