Madrid / We thought that José Luis Cuerda was never going to die. And, because of that, because we didn’t want him to die, we repeated ourselves as a mantra that we would always be contingent, but he was necessary.
Creator of an unrecognized religion (the ‘dawns’), grumpy, “good-natured” -that only he said about himself-, smarter than hunger, fun and quick mental associations, José Luis Cuerda was going to turn 73 next February 18.
Cuerda had a reputation for temper among the people who had to work for him; at the same level, they adored him. That he was very clever, that as soon as he looked at you, he knew what foot you were limping on… Everything “a character” in the shootings, which he later supplied by generously opening white bottles from his Sanclodio winery.
It was his only wine, a Ribeiro that made and bore the same name as his winery in Cubilledo (Ourense), an area he fell in love with during the filming of “The animated forest”. But, his relatives say that he approached the wine not because of the landscape, but because of the stories he tells and that he was pending production until the stroke he suffered in 2013 forced him to leave it in the hands of his daughters.
He was also a member of the Board of Directors of the Círculo de Bellas Artes (CBA), where he was very dear. The filmmaker told that his family moved to Madrid thanks to his father, a professional poker player, won a flat on the Paseo de la Habana in “the temple of the game” which was then the CBA.
Cuerda did not have good health as a child. At the age of five he spent a whole year in bed sick of pleurisy. He also spent time at a seminar in Albacete and later studied law, although he did not pass a course; Just then it coincided with Cristina Almeida and Manuela Carmena, and with them he joined the Communist Party, although he did it “for trying” and did not last long.
Winner of four Goya Awards, two as a screenwriter of his own films (“The Blind Sunflowers”, 2008, and “The Education of the Fairies”, 2006) and two others as producer of Alejandro Amenábar (“Thesis”, in 1996, and “The others”, in 2001), Cuerda had been complaining for years that he couldn’t find a way to shoot what would be his last film.
In fact, in 2015 it was decided to print as a novel the script “Time Later”, which he wrote two years after premiering “So in heaven as on earth” (1995).
Until “La peat” appeared, comedians and devotees of Cuerda among whom were Andreu Buenafuente, Berto Romero and Edu Galán, determined to fulfill the desire of the “teacher”. In the end, it was Arturo Valls and his partner Felix Tussell who pulled forward with the film.
He did it with 71 years. At Christmas 2018, more specifically – and how could it be otherwise – on December 28, the feast of the Holy Innocents, Cuerda premiered “Time later”, just 30 years after the premiere of “Dawn is not little” with which closes a trilogy that also includes “So in heaven as on earth.”
They were young artists who honored a whole generation. Almost forty interpreters who did not put any condition to work with him. From Roberto Álamo – which Cuerda “recruited” after seeing him play “Urtain” in the theater – Blanca Suárez, César Sarachu, Carlos Areces, Berto Romero, Antonio de la Torre or Daniel Pérez Prada. And Miguel Rellán and Gabino Diego, as pennants of engagement between generations.
In an interview with EFE, the filmmaker said that this film was “the best” he had done in his life, “talking about cinema,” of course.
Already during the promotion of the film, Cuerda gave symptoms of not being in very good health; coinciding with those weeks, he was diagnosed with senile deterioration. Even with his sense of humor intact, he attributed his obvious weight loss (more than thirty kilos) to the “rare” dinners he made, based on “croissant with yogurt, protein and vitamins, a complete menu.”
After “Dawn …”, the qualifier that immediately linked with Cuerda was “surreal”. But he did not share it. He preferred “surruralist,” for the rural, he said. An absurd humor that was one of his hallmarks.
“Surrealism in cinema cannot exist because it is automatic, without calculation or measurement, and that in cinema cannot be. You have to know where the camera is going, for what purpose, at what distance, if it is chopped or contrapicured; Come on, nor Buñuel, that is, nobody. No one can work with that material, ”he explained patiently.
The press loved him too. That same year, journalists gave him the Fierce Honor Award at the gala held in Bilbao; the one that recognized the more 40 years of trajectory.
Then, and it almost sounds like epitaph, he said he felt “very dear.”
“I am not going to fool myself or fool you. I am good-natured, although I have a reputation for terrible, of ‘watch out for Cuerda, who has a bad grape’ and such – he laughs -. But in this movie everything has come together and I think that’s a good thing. ” (February 4, 2020, EFE / Practica Español)
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