Can Dialectics Break Bricks Cinema: El pico II (cine quinqui retrospective)

Sunday December 1st 2019, Can Dialectics Break Bricks Cinema: El pico II (1984) by Eloy de la Iglesia, 122 minutes. In Spanish with English subtitles. Doors open at 20:00, Film starts at 20:30

El pico II is a stunning sequel that can be watched on its own, even if you haven’t seen Eloy’s smash film El pico, made just one year earlier. This time the action is set in Madrid, in the infamous Carabanchel jail, which became cine quinqui’s ‘actor’s studio’ since so many of the performers in these movies were real life criminals. Although the follow-up is less gritty, it remains true to El pico’s mix between denunciation essay and action thriller. Because Eloy was, in a way, an unrefined version of the Greek director Costa Gavras, with the added intensity of a filmmaker who was not just a self-declared communist, but also openly gay and addicted to heroin.

And heroin is indeed at the heart of this story. Our junkie heroes, Manzano and Pirri, play two cell mates – a posh kid and a working class quinqui – who help each other navigate the prison’s informal power structures, including some pretty unsavoury gay and transgender characters. El pico II deals blow after blow to different aspects of the new Spain: private addiction clinics, the prison system, class privileges, ETA, the press, the Guardia Civil. It goes in-depth into the corruption of the courts and legal system. It exposes the abject sociology of the prison – how it pits prisoners against each other, how it uses hardcore prisoners to punish ‘soft’ ones.

All this with the added bonus of a glorious flamenco soundtrack and two of the best knife-fight scenes of the whole cine quinqui era.

Film night at Joe’s Garage, cozy cinema! Free entrance. You want to screen a movie, let us know: joe [at] lists [dot] squat [dot] net

Can Dialectics Break Bricks Cinema: El Pico (Eloy de la Iglesia, 1983)

170514_el_pico_smSunday May 14th 2017, Can Dialectics Break Bricks Cinema. El Pico (1983) by Eloy de la Iglesia. 105 minutes. In Spanish and Basque, with custom-made English subtitles. Door opens at 8pm, film begin at 9pm. Free admission.

This is the key movie of a much discussed genre called /cine quinqui/, which dealt mostly with heroin-use and small-time criminality.  While Europe seemingly only produced a handful of heroin dramas like Christiane F., in Spain the genre caught on like wildfire. Most of the films were low budget, rough and gritty in a wonderful Blaxploitation kind of way.

El pico is the culmination of the quinqui movement, but it is also much more than that. No longer a low-budget affair, this movie is a full-fledged political thriller set in the Basque country. At the time, Eloy de la Iglesia’s denunciation of the Guardia Civil’s involvement in the heroin trade sounded like a crazy conspiracy theory. It would take another fifteen years for the Supreme Court to endorse the accusations made in this movie (Caso UCIFA, 1997). Much like the CIA’s involvement in the Cointelpro heroin deals to hush down, frame or kill the ‘black power’ communities, the Guardia Civil worked hand in hand with drugdealers to stifle a rebellious unemployed Basque youth, who were still joining the ranks of ETA and nationalist parties.

If this wasn’t enough, El pico is also a film about homosexual emancipation. Quique San Francisco plays a brave, politically engaged, deeply humane gay character, and in the role of the beautiful young junkie we find Eloy de la Iglesia’s long-time lover Jose Luis Manzano, one of the many heroin celebrities of the time. As a teenager, Manzano had tried to mug the film director, but ended up starring in several of his films. Like many cine quinqui stars, the talented non-actor spent his life going from rehab to filmshoot to court-hearing, and he died of a bad heroin dose just a decade after this movie was shot.

The movie was a massive box-office success, despite the horrendous reviews by film critics in Spain. it was soon followed up with El pico 2, which presented drug use in a slightly more realistic way.

Film night at Joe’s Garage, cozy cinema! Doors open at 8pm, film begins at 9pm, free entrance. You want to play a movie, let us know: joe [at] squat [dot] net

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