Placido is Luis García Berlanga’s sixth film—he was cranking them out from 1953 (his debut) to 1957 but there is four years off between Miracles of Thursday (1957) and Placido– his strongest work to date. He was met with government censorship issues over the political satirical content.
Placido is the name of the film, and also the name of the lead character played by Cassen. The film is all about subtext, on the surface almost nothing happens—Placido spends the first 70 minutes trying to pay a bill and getting the runaround from everyone— and the last 15 trying to get food for his family to eat (again, Berlanga sort of using Italian neorealism as his jumping off point).
At the very beginning you hear from the megaphone “Dine with a poor man”. It is Christmas Eve, and there are movie celebrities visiting from the big city Madrid (this is a rural village, like all of Berlanga’s works). There’s a parade, an auction, a dinner. Berlanga is set to expose the seemingly never-ending hypocrisy of the vast majority of the inhabitants of the village. This is a darker, more cynical look at society than Berlanga’s past works.
Placido is trying to get money, paying the bank, getting notarized—the endless bureaucracy
It is an ensemble comedy— there are 6, 8, 12 people in the frame
It is an accumulative work—I watched it two days in a row, it rewards multiple viewings. Again, on the surface everything seems throwaway and casual, yet nothing really is. The first 20 minutes it does seem like nothing is going on- until you understand Berlanga’s thesis
The megaphone “set aside all self-interest and stinginess” for the poor—this would make for an amazing double-billing with Nashville – Altman uses the ensemble, the overlapping dialogue, the political subtext and even a van/truck with a megaphone
Certainly Preston Sturges comes to mind, Armando Iannucci, the simple search playing out as a black, tragic comedy is 2005’s Romanian film The Death of Mr. Lazarescu
Berlanga peppers the frame with bodies, heavy dialogue, overlapping (Altman), low ASL (average shot length). On paper, without his trademark Capra-like It Happened One Night pacing this could be a 140-minute movie. Here it is barely over 80.
Longer discussions and characters move in and out of the frame, not quite lyrical like Renoir, but the ensemble work is similar, pivoting from one conversation to another as characters in the background are talking as well
Various depths of field at 46-minutes
There are the poor, shown stealing at one point— they don’t seem overly redeeming either- it isn’t quite Bunuel’s Viridiana but still
The shot at 63-minutes is a standout, there is a girl in the front right of the frame on the phone. It seems like there are 20 characters shown in this one shot, most of them talking at some point. The shot lasts three-minutes long—Berlanga seems to be building, the takes seem to get longer and longer in duration
The final song at 88-minutes is a little on the nose—but I’m sure Berlanga was worried about the entire message getting missed
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