May 5, 2009
Happy Parallel, 1964
Part of the Morality and Society program in the Clandestí: Forbidden Catalan Cinema Under Franco series, Enric Ripoli i Freixes and Josep Maria Ramon's Happy Parallel emulates the familiar format of official Noticias Documentales newsreels - the only shot footages of "real life" permitted by Franco under a 1942 ban on non state-sponsored documentary filmmaking - to capture a decidedly more candid, unofficial view of the rhythm of life in El Paralelo, a once bustling entertainment district in Barcelona during the 1920s and 30s that had fallen into hard times after the war. Composed of quotidian street images that were shot over the course of a day, El Paralelo transforms from a seemingly nondescript, working class community by day (in the shots of residents opening windows and heading to work), to notorious red light district by night - the streets dotted with bars, burlesque shows, hourly motels, brothels, and drugstores. But rather than simply illustrating socioeconomic division in the parallel tale of two cities, Ripoli i Freixes and Ramon also reveal through the day to night progression of the images that the disparity is integrally connected to the underlying symptoms of the neighborhood's dramatic transformation - problems that have been swept under the rug by the regime in an attempt to project its image of conservative and moralistic ideals - poverty (dilapidated buildings), unemployment (a busy pool hall), stagnation, substance abuse, homelessness, and untreated mental illness. Closing with a montage of El Paralelo at daybreak as workers supplant vagrants and the streets are swept clean again, the images express the broader hope of revitalization and transformation through community and hard work.