Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB
Original Title: Bienvenido Mister Marshall
Spain, 1953. Unión Industrial Cinematográfica. Story by Juan Antonio Bardem, Luis García Berlanga, Screenplay by Juan Antonio Bardem, Luis García Berlanga, Miguel Mihura. Cinematography by Manuel Berenguer. Produced by Vicente Sempere. Music by Jesús García Leoz. Production Design by Francisco Canet, Francisco Rodríguez Asensio. Costume Design by Eduardo de la Torre. Film Editing by Pepita Orduna. Cannes Film Festival 1953.
A tiny hamlet in rural Spain receives a visit from their delegate letting them know that the Americans will soon be coming through as part of the Marshall Plan, and that he hopes the city will treat them to a proper welcoming. The city overdoes itself, turning its citizens into classic (mythical) ideas of traditional Andalusians, while the people prepare for the bounty of gifts they hope to receive from the rich and generous Americans, lining up to name their material requests like they were in one of Eva Peron’s giveaways. Director Luis Garcia Berlanga made a habit of setting his comedies in isolated Spanish hamlets as a way of criticizing Francoist claims that bucolic country life was strengthened by the leader’s overreaching hand, where what we have here is a petty and ignorant population who has little idea of its own culture while having rather extreme ideas of the visitors they are anticipating. The lengthy dream sequences toward the end throw plenty of criticism the other way as well, calling out the KKK and the HUAC as contradictory aspects of American heroism, topped off by a wild west fantasy that shows that everything, from America to Spain to charity, is a fantasy. Smart, sharp and beautifully directed, this one’s humour hits deep.