Coming to NYC’s Film Forum for a special screening this Saturday, April 13:
Madrid’s Palace e Infants (September 1976)
A portrait of a celebrated but troubled literary family which became a Spanish cult classic.
Filmed in 1974, towards the end of the Franco dictatorship, this dysfunctional family portrait was intended by director Jaime Chávarri to be a kind of Spanish GREY GARDENS, focused, like that Maysles classic, on a family with elite connections which had seen better days. In this case, the subjects represented the family of Leopoldo Panero, the so-called poet laureate of the Franco regime. Filmed 12 years after Panero’s death, and pointedly not featuring his likeness in any explicit way, the doc instead features extensive interviews with his widow, Felicidad, and three grown sons, Juan Luis, Leopoldo María, and Michi, as they alternately mythologize and debunk the family’s personal and literary legacy. Though romanticizing her courtship with Panero, Felicidad reflects on how she lost her identity following their marriage, while their dilettante youngest son, Michi, compares the literary merits of his feuding older brothers’ own attempts at writing. Through the film, Juan Luis takes on an exaggerated, performative role – the villain of the piece – but it’s the psychologically troubled Leopoldo María who leaves the strongest impact, savagely attacking both of his parents in the last section in a sort of proto-reality TV mode. Released not long after Franco’s death, after being withdrawn from its scheduled world premiere at San Sebastian, Chávarri’s film became a scandal, the family’s airing of dirty laundry implicating not just Leopoldo Panero but also holding up a mirror to the corruption of General Franco and his regime. Over the years, the film has become a cult classic within Spain, but only now comes stateside due to the efforts of Aaron Shulman, who wrote a book exploring the Paneros’ complex and notorious history, as well as the impact of the doc, THE AGE OF DISENCHANTMENTS: THE EPIC STORY OF SPAIN’S MOST NOTORIOUS LITERARY FAMILY AND THE LONG SHADOW OF THE SPANISH CIVIL WAR. Although viewers not familiar with Panero or with the Franco regime will no doubt find themselves somewhat confused at the film’s outset, they’ll soon be drawn in by the family dynamics on display, and will be left intrigued to learn more.