On July 20, one of the most important Spanish writers of the last two centuries and one of the greatest European novelists, Juan Marsé, died. Writer of cult and success at the same time, something difficult to combine (but that he achieved through his narrative and his splendid novels), Marsé has been one of the authors whose work has been most often transferred to screens, at cinematographic medium. Curiously, when asked about the adaptations of his books to the cinema, he always said the same thing: “I don’t like them, they don’t have much to do with what I have written, except slightly in the plot. I have given up the rights to the cinema, but I have never been satisfied with the result ”. And it is curious because some of the films based on his works are magnificent, although it is difficult to summarize in an hour and a half of images and dialogues stories that, written and read, always have a greater, richer and deeper dimension.
When he spoke about cinema, to which, despite the above, it was noted that he was a great fan and gave great social importance. “As children we had a way of calling movies very direct: those of fear, those of laughter , the love ones, the war ones … The adventure ones could be subdivided into gangster movies and Western movies. There were, of course, also different adventure films, a section that includes all of Tarzan, a character I like for his love of nature and his relationship with animals, and there were also explorer films, cartoon films. We had all the clearest divisions, ”he said in another interview.
For their generation, neighborhood cinemas, with continuous sessions as they were called, often with double programming (usually showing two feature films, one short film) opened horizons that were unthinkable before. Those cinemas were the most outstanding part of the geography of his Barcelona neighborhood and he frequented them whenever he could. Sometimes, he changed his habits and Marsé went to some downtown cinema, since he lived in the suburbs. But his regular visits were to cinemas already largely disappeared, such as the Sala Delicias, the World Cinema, the Projections, the Selecto or the Roxy.
The truth is that the relationship between Marsé and the cinema fluctuated between love and hate, except of course the great classics of the history of cinema that he idolized. But he always hated, at least apparently, the film adaptations of his books. The now disappeared Vicente Aranda took his novels The Girl with the Golden Panties to the cinema (with Victoria Abril, 1980), If they tell you I fell (with Victoria Abril, Jorge Sanz and Antonio Banderas, 1989) and The Bilingual Lover (with Imanol Arias and Ornella Muti, 1993)
Aranda, one of the great filmmakers of the last years of the 20th century, once declared to La Vanguardia: “My relationship with dead authors has been excellent, but bad with living authors. I am referring to Marsé, who, at least, has been sincere and has personally reproached me for my lack of poetry and tenderness when adapting it.
José Luis Guarner, one of the great critics and cinematographic scholars and a great friend of his, before the novelist’s reactions to seeing the adaptation of Marsé’s books, asked him with some irony and sarcasm: ‘But, Juan, you have seen the films but … have you read your novels?
The filmmakers who adapted their books were, in order of importance, Vicente Aranda, Jaime Camino, and Jordi Cadena.
Marsé also collaborated on the script for The Long Winter, directed in 1992 by Jaime Camino, with Vittorio Gassman and Jean Rochefort. Camino had already filmed in 1973 My private teacher, with a script by Marsé in collaboration with Gil de Biedma. The protagonists were Joan Manuel Serrat and Analía Gadé.
Also “Last Afternoons with Teresa” one of the novels launched Marsé to fame was brought to the cinema. The same as her other great novel, The Dark History of Cousin Montse, which was filmed in 1977 by Jordi Cadena and starred by a young and splendid Ana Belén.
Marsé loved cinema, but he repeated that not the one they did with his texts … but it is that perhaps, in addition to his facet as a screenwriter or co-writer and literary narrator, that out-of-the-way writer who was Juan Marsé, in love with cinema since boy, what he would have loved is to be also a director, filmmaker. He had opportunities but always said that “he is too tired and he needs too many people to make movies … and I am a great loner, someone who likes to work alone.”
Rest in peace Juan Marsé, one of the greatest writers of our time.