Death of Mario Camus: Spanish director of “La Colmena”, “Holy Innocents”

This year’s San Sebastian Film Festival mourns as Spanish director Mario Camus, celebrated for his understated but benevolent adaptations of distinguished Spanish novels such as “La Colmena” – written by Nobel Prize winner Camilo José Cela – “Young Sánchez “by Ignacio Aldecoa and” Les Saints Innocents “by Miguel Delibes, died Saturday in Santander, in northern Spain, the city where he was born. Camus was 86 years old.

Among his professional achievements, Camus won the Berlin Golden Bear for Best Film with “La Colmena” (1983), an ecumenical jury prize at the Cannes Prize for “Les Saints Innocents” (1984). Such films proved to be a culmination of the dream of the ruling socialist left in Spain, spurred when Pilar Miró took over as head of the Spanish film institute ICAA in 1982, to maintain the social advantage of Spanish cinema but d ” initiate its production levels and bring it onto the European scene.

Camus also participated in the Directors’ Fortnight in Cannes and in the Moscow Festival for “Shadows in a Conflict” (1993). The director also received the Excellence Award from the Spanish Academy Goya in 2011.

He belonged to the so-called generation of new Spanish cinema which includes directors Carlos Saura – Camus collaborated with the Spanish master on his gritty 1959 first feature film “Los golfos” and his second release, the 1963 western influenced by Buñuel “To cry a bandit” – Basilio Martín Patino, José Luis Borau, Francisco Regueiro, Julio Diamante and Miguel Picazo.

Camus’ career spanned over forty years, from his first feature film “Los farsantes” in 1963 to his swan song “El prado de las estrellas” in 2007.

In addition to his skillful ability to elegantly adapt the works of Spanish-speaking masters such as the 17th century writer Calderon de la Barca with “La leyenda del alcalde de Zalamea” from 1973; poet-playwright Federico García Lorca in “The House of Bernarda Alba” (1983); and Eduardo Mendoza with “La ciudad de los prodigios” (1999), his talent shone in several other genres including popular musicals starring Spanish stars Sara Montiel, Raphael and Marisol, among others, thrillers like “Shadows in a Conflict ”and even dramatic comedies as was the case with“ Self Esteem ”. His work has always been carried out with trustworthy craftsmanship.

Note also two films with a charismatic Antonio Gades, the lyrical song “Con el Veniro Solano” from 1966, candidate for the Palme d’Or in Cannes, where he plays a gypsy on the run from Spanish law, and the shooting of 1945 “The days of the past”, where it is a maqui who will not lay down their arms.

In total, the filmmaker has shot 30 feature films and has been behind the camera for some of the most enduring Spanish TV series – “Fortunata and Jacinta” (1980), the famous “Curro Jiménez” (1977) and one of the series most ambitious ever. in Spain, “La forja de un rebelde” (1990), to name but a few.

A few days after Camus missed the Palme d’Or at Cannes 1984 with “Les Saints Innocents”, the director was in a restaurant when actor Dirk Bogarde walked in. Bogarde had just chaired the jury and, with the help of a waiter, sent a note written on a napkin to Camus which read: “milana bonita” (beautiful kite, the bird), an expression that the great Spanish actor Francisco Rabal has repeated throughout Camus’ feature film, acknowledging that Bogarde was a fan, and possibly indicating that he would have liked Camus to win.

Like so much Spanish cinema, the director did not receive the recognition in life he deserved, save, with one exception, a splendid full retrospective at the Valladolid Film Festival in 1984.

Camus humbly said that great Spanish cinema is always written with a “B” – in reference to the three great ones, Luis Buñuel, Luis García Berlanga and José Antonio Bardem. Today, one of the longest and brightest careers in Spanish cinema ends with a “C”.

John Hopewell contributed to this article.

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