The Last Summer: The transitions of film
by Alfonso Rivera
- KARLOVY VARY 2016: The debut feature by Leire Apellaniz portrays, without sentimentalism or romantic nostalgia, the transition from analogue to digital film through the figure of a travelling projectionist
The Last Summer [+see also:
film profile] is being shown in competition in the documentaries section of the 51st Karlovy Vary Festival after featuring at other festivals, like the BAFICI and in Uruguay. It is the third Spanish film being shown in the Czech city, the first two being The Next Skin [+see also:
interview: Isa Campo, Isaki Lacuesta
film profile] (a co-production with Switzerland), which is being screened in the official section, and Mimosas [+see also:
interview: Oliver Laxe
film profile] (Spain/France/Morocco/Qatar), which is being shown in Another View.
The film opens in Almeria, a legendary place in Spain where many spaghetti westerns were filmed. There, by a service station, the anti-hero of our story, Miguel Ángel Rodríguez wakes up. He’s a man who spends his summers travelling the length and breadth of the Spanish peninsula driven heart and soul by one passion: to bring film to Spanish towns. And so he transports reels and visits entrepreneurs who, like messengers from the gods, bring the fantasy and drama of film to children, the elderly and cats who are left bewitched in streets, cinemas and squares by what they see projected – under the stars – onto walls, sheets and inflatable screens.
Because like a cowboy, in 2013-2014 when people were switching over from analogue to digital, Miguel Ángel was still transporting these enormous reels and projectors that now sit unused in graveyard-like warehouses. This transition, this change that was imposed yet necessary, is shown by Leire Apellaniz through the vagabond character of Rodriguez, with whom he worked for years as a projectionist himself.
The Last Summer is thus a heartfelt tribute to those who handed down celluloid film, and must now evolve themselves, to adapt to another system behind film. But the documentary, which was shot by friends and with a couple of cameras, does not have a tear-jerking nostalgia reminiscent of Tornatore’s style. Instead, like another film that portrays the end of an era, Paradiso by Omar A. Rakkaz (which we catch a fleeting glimpse of in this film), the narrative is frank, respectful and dynamic.
The humour (those film books that help steady an old projector) and symbolic images (like the Berlanga cinema in Madrid’s sliding platform that allows the use of either a photochemical or a digital projector), like the unexpected appearance of a familiar face (the protagonist of The Apostate [+see also:
film profile] and more, but we won’t give anything away here) make for an organic, fresh and handcrafted film that recreates an experience from the protagonist’s past, but without inventing scenes: everything we see really happened on the pilgrimages of this Don Quixote of film and flamenco, the embodiment of the end of an era.
Like a postscript, the final scene was shot in 35mm: a wink at the technicians screening this documentary not only at Karlovy Vary, but anywhere else, out in the open or not, in the world. Because the soul and love that move human beings to do the things they do will never be replaced by machines.
(Translated from Spanish)