FILMSPARKS – 50 Years DFFB: Albert Ser­ra — Obit­u­ary for Lluis Car­bó

Today I would like to talk about Lluis Car­bó. I believe that every one of you would find it easy to rate his act­ing skills, not just in QUIXOTIC but in all the oth­er films he lat­er made with me.

I have actu­al­ly known him for a long time, for most of my life, some­times rather super­fi­cial­ly, some­times a bit more pro­found­ly. I final­ly real­ly got to know him while work­ing togeth­er on an ama­teur film in 2000, CRESPIÁ. That was the first time that I asked him, more or less at ran­dom, if he would like to play a role in it. I only want­ed to work with ama­teur actors. While edit­ing, I noticed that he is unique­ly “pho­to­genic”, in the sense in which the word is used in France, i.e. there are peo­ple who you can­not stop look­ing at on film because every­thing they do is good, they pos­sess an unbound­ed pho­to­genic tal­ent in the phys­i­cal as well as the spir­i­tu­al sense. He sur­prised me, unlike oth­er actors whose appeal was always some­how lim­it­ed. He real­ly stood out because of some­thing I would call “prim­i­tive pho­to­gen­ics”.

Since this first film, but actu­al­ly from a lot ear­li­er on – I have known him since I was young – he has enriched me intel­lec­tu­al­ly in a nat­ur­al way, most­ly through what we could call Sur­re­al­ism and Rock ’n’ Roll, in this par­tic­u­lar­ly strong man­i­fes­ta­tion of the “ludic”, the playful…that was what made up his char­ac­ter, his ten­den­cies, the orig­i­nal­i­ty of his incal­cu­la­ble being and par­tic­u­lar­ly the men­tal inde­pen­dence of his life that was rich with eccen­tric and even scur­rilous moments (although he led a rel­a­tive­ly nor­mal life).

I quick­ly not­ed that his way of doing things fit per­fect­ly with my method of work­ing, with­out prepa­ra­tion and film­ing with three dig­i­tal cam­eras. We always did very long scenes just like in a per­for­mance, in which every moment is unique for itself. With­out this dig­i­tal pos­si­bil­i­ty of mak­ing humor­ous, play­ful films that exist out­side of the realm of real­i­ty, I would nev­er have become a film­mak­er and in light of the fact that life gets more bor­ing, repeat­ing itself and grow­ing monot­o­nous with the pass­ing years, I have always assumed that film­mak­ing should help me not only to change my life, but also to indi­rect­ly influ­ence the lives of those  around me. This was the case with Lluis Car­bó because any­thing was pos­si­ble and at the mag­ic moment of film­mak­ing, every­thing had pow­er, our play­ful­ness made sense out of every­thing that we were doing made, and we took every sort of risk out of “cre­ative” ambi­tion, where­by ambi­tion with­out this play­ful aspect remains dry and ster­ile: for­mal or aca­d­e­m­ic ambi­tion. As part of this play­ful­ness, ambi­tion devel­ops an inter­est­ing pati­na, it is jol­lier, far from bor­ing. Lluis always enriched the films he was in by mix­ing coura­geous, wild, provoca­tive and pri­mal act­ing, all aris­ing from this play­ful ele­ment. And it’s what lends the unique note to the films I shot with him.

This all grew more and more com­plex from film to film, lead­ing to my – and prob­a­bly also his – mas­ter­piece that I made for the Bien­nale in Venice, Sin­gu­lar­i­ty (2015). His unpre­dictable and orig­i­nal way of doing things allowed Lluis to uncon­scious­ly moti­vate peo­ple. That was real­ly valu­able, a dri­ve that ful­filled every scene and kept them from going flat. Min­i­mal­ist films are always in dan­ger of going too flat, but he turned the process into some­thing unique, actu­al­ly all my films, but par­tic­u­lar­ly Sin­gu­lar­i­ty, where he took things to a rad­i­cal and orig­i­nal lev­el, which I found to be true genius from my point of view.

It was also inter­est­ing that he, although not an edu­cat­ed per­son, always under­stood the grav­i­ty of the final prod­uct. He knew that was what it was all about, not just being recog­nised at fes­ti­vals, even though that is what gives a lot of peo­ple self-assur­ance, because they can sense that their work is being appre­ci­at­ed. Inde­pen­dent­ly of that, he under­stood the aes­thet­ic val­ue of the final prod­uct, some­thing that brings togeth­er the traces of his per­son­al­i­ty that always seem a lot more sub­dued in the edit­ing mon­i­tor than on the screen, and he also under­stood that this final prod­uct is always bet­ter than his per­for­mance in real­i­ty. That is some­thing that only a few can mas­ter, spe­cial­ly those with­out any sort of train­ing, who do not grasp the for­mal log­ic that every film is based on. He recog­nised the val­ue of that, intu­itive­ly. And after he grasped that while mak­ing his first film, from then on all his con­cen­tra­tion and ded­i­ca­tion fol­lowed this approach.

A film is more than just the time spent shoot­ing it, it’s also the count­less hours of post-pro­duc­tion that we spent togeth­er in Bany­oles, he was there near­ly every day. And then on count­less total­ly crazy trips, such as the one to Mar del Pla­ta in Argenti­na, where we flew with six or sev­en peo­ple. That was the most off-the-wall expe­ri­ence of my life. And even there, he always had the aes­thet­ic final result in the back of his mind. He knew that I was fond of mak­ing a joke at film pre­sen­ta­tions: ”I have expe­ri­enced count­less crazy, con­fus­ing moments, so fun­ny and orig­i­nal that most peo­ple can only dream of them…on the oth­er hand, I have, unfor­tu­nate­ly nev­er expe­ri­enced such divine actors as there are to be seen here on the screen.”

He had a cer­tain way of col­lect­ing all the dif­fer­ent influ­ences: the best of him, the best of me, the best of every­thing that was involved in the film, and he con­tributed to free­ing them from their ego­tism and their ten­den­cy towards self por­tray­al, crys­tallis­ing the mag­ic and fas­ci­na­tion that exudes from peo­ple who know that they are in exact­ly the right place at the right time while still not for­get­ting who they are, where their pow­er lies – in their exhi­bi­tion­ism and nat­u­ral­ness.

He retained his naiveté to very end and I would real­ly like the pub­lic to make the com­par­i­son with my last film SINGULARITY as well, even though it would be dif­fi­cult as this thir­teen-hour instal­la­tion is only to be seen in muse­ums. But this film is rich in sto­ry­telling, full of dia­logues that con­firm what I have always main­tained. One can sense the way his pre­ci­sion devel­ops, his last ounce of con­cen­tra­tion and ded­i­ca­tion, even though he was exhaust­ed from his chemother­a­py. The shoot­ings seemed to rean­i­mate him. I still have touch­ing mem­o­ries of the last shoot in Ire­land. He could no longer walk prop­er­ly, we had been film­ing for twelve days in the cold and rain, were drink­ing a lot and get­ting away with excess­es that no doc­tor would have allowed. It was like a mir­a­cle. He came back total­ly changed, could walk again, could almost run again. His sub­ver­sive way of par­tic­i­pat­ing was to recov­er his phys­i­cal self-con­trol, which gave him the moral strength and ener­gy that he nev­er found in real life, one that can only be found through art and through which he over­came almost all his phys­i­cal hand­i­caps.

His pres­ence in film­mak­ing is a mar­vel­lous exam­ple of how one can com­bine pop­u­lar aspects with refine­ment and excel­lence in art, a much more inter­est­ing com­bi­na­tion than any pure­ly for­mal art, of that I am con­vinced. With­out this com­bi­na­tion, art is – whether bet­ter or worse, I dare not say – much more bor­ing.