(19/04/07) – Born in Pamplona in 1975, Félix Viscarret studied Film Direction at the William Patterson University in New Jersey, where he directed the short, Dreamers, which won several awards including the Special Mention of the Panorama Jury at the Berlin Film Festival (1999). This year Felix sees the release of his first feature film, Under the Stars (Bajo las estrellas), based on the novel El trompetista del Utopia by Fernando Aramburu and produced by Fernando Trueba. The film is due for a July release in Spain and scooped the Best Director, Best Actor and Best First Screenplay at this year’s Málaga Spanish Film Festival. His short film, Winter Songs (Canciones de Invierno), is included the DVD compilation New Masters of Cinema, reviewed on Kamera.
Given Félix Viscarret’s singular views on traditional narrative patterns in cinema, it is hardly surprising that he describes his short film Canciones de Invierno (Winter Songs) as "a comedy focused on people who are stuck in the wreckage of recent love affairs."
It is not the first time that heartbreak has been used as a catalyst for cinematic comedy, but few directors have an ear so finely attuned to the absurdities of human suffering as Viscarret. As the director states, much of the eccentric onscreen behaviour (from the shop assistant setting up a shrine to his lost love, to the hotel receptionist who removes the engine from his ex-girlfriend’s car just so he can help repair it) is informed by his own romantic disappointments: "Obviously, since I wrote the screenplay, I’m projecting some of my past love affairs onto different characters. I’m trying to make a comedy out of the stupid things that everyone does when their heart is broken."
Indeed, Viscarret is acutely aware of the cathartic value of dramatising our own humiliations. For him, it is part of being human, and an invaluable source of respite from the painful experiences we all face. "I think sometimes laughter is the only way to heal those deep wounds that we have. Thanks to laughter we can look at things from a new perspective, when we might otherwise be stuck always in the failure of past relationships."
The director’s policy of mixing laughter with tears creates a vivid cast of characters in Canciones, whose sense of dislocation is both emotional and geographical. "Since all the main characters are lost in their loneliness and heartache, we thought the best way to visually explain that was to make every character lost in the middle of nowhere; these places like airports, diners near highways, convention hotels." The plight of Marco – who repeatedly watches footage of his ex-girlfriend in an industrial documentary video – is made all the more poignant by the fact that he does so in a dimly lit hotel room, only taking a break to buy half-eaten gherkins at the nearby convenience store. In this way, the mind-numbing monotony of his behaviour is reflected in the architecture which surrounds him. As Viscarret explains, "Everywhere you go in the Western world, every city looks the same. In an existential way, we are all lost in this mayhem – in the lives of airports and hotels."
With three short films and an award-winning feature now under his belt – an achievement the director himself could barely imagine when he was filming Canciones de Invierno – it seems that Félix Viscarret’s adventure has many years yet to run: "We shot this film here in Madrid and in a way we felt like the characters: OK, we’re filming this here in the middle of nowhere, so who is going to watch it?"
(New Masters of Cinema©)
To purchase a copy of New Masters of Cinema, please follow the Amazon link or the link to New Masters of Cinema, where you can also watch trailers and a video interview with Viscarret.