‘The permanent image’, reasons for a historic Golden Spike

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The historical term associated with transcendental or memorable is used and applied so liberally that it is on its way to becoming synonymous with insubstantial. Maybe banal. (If it’s already happened with the word “literal”, it’s all a matter of time.) On Saturday the 28th, the Golden Spike of the Valladolid Festival was announced and the first headline, as just a month ago in San Sebastián, was taken by the relevant and at the same time embarrassing fact that this is the first time that the greatest of the Seminci awards go to a Spanish director. The movie is The permanent image and its director, Laura Ferrés. In 68 editions since 1956, only seven women have won. Good things are changing. Late – very late even – and very little by little, but good.

And yet, the transcendental and, again, the historical is not so much the genre of the director as that of the film itself. The award given to The permanent image He himself gives a new meaning to the confusing meaning of film festivals in general and that of Valladolid, which debuts a director, in particular. Ferrés’ film is a radical proposal that manages to place the viewer in a place that is both strange and perfectly recognizable. Memorable, for continuing with what was noted at the beginning, and, in its own way, delicately insubstantial. Transcendentally banal, one might say. Let’s say that it is a proposal that becomes strong in the virtuous and enlightened contradiction of daring to go as far as possible from what is closest.

The story is told of a woman who, after fleeing the infinite stress of her town as a child, meets another woman 50 years later on the outskirts of Barcelona. The first 20 minutes take place in a sad and very gray past, the rest in the present. Something more colorful, but perhaps just as sad. The first woman, the one who fled, makes a living selling perfumes that she makes herself and the second is a photographer who looks for supposedly peculiar people for advertising. Together they will discover each other’s world and themselves within that world. They are Rosario Ortega and María Luengo and they are not actresses, but as if they were. All perfectly earthly and, in its own way, even miraculous.

From here, Ferrés elaborates a careful, very funny and extremely sensitive reflection on the value of the image, on the sense of normality, on the strange place in which cinema stops portraying reality and begins to fable and wish for a necessarily different world. What impresses and even makes you fall in love is relief, freedom and the permanent feeling of estrangement that invites a film that dares to look where no one else wants to. That a festival like Valladolid, so attached to its traditions, so aware of its history and so proud of its great names, has awarded its Golden Spike to this memorable discovery signed by Ferrés is definitely historic. Literal.

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