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    ZINEBI 65

    Focus: Iván Zulueta. Notes and Sketches

    Panfleto: a dotted line linking Andy Warhol to Michael Jackson

    Anyone who ever took an interest in Arrebato (1979) and wanted to delve deeper into its interpretations will have come up with the much-contrasted idea that José Sirgado (Eusebio Poncela) and Pedro P. (Will More) are nothing more than the two sides of Iván Zulueta. This obsession with couples duplicating, taking on complements, couples breaking up, couples who need each other and finally destroy themselves is not only apparent in Arrebato, but throughout his extensive, incomplete and obsessive filmmaking career. Established through portrayals of vampires, rock stars, poor little orphan girls/twin girls with wild names, the dual personages go into a spiral of cannibalism and self-destruction from which, in the best scenario, they emerge purified and reborn, and in the worst, they succumb in a cosmic apotheosis that does away with them. Again and again, and hundreds, thousands of times, Iván Zulueta returns to this narrative. The demons and angels inside his head always fought the same fight, and they never surrendered. It is also a well-known fact that Iván Zulueta grew up in an atmosphere of films (and painting) from his earliest years. His father, Antonio de Zulueta, was a co-founder and director from 1957 to 1960 of what we now know as the San Sebastián International Film Festival – SSIFF (as borne out by some of the films in these programmes). The first event was held in 1953 as the San Sebastián International Film Week, when Iván was ten. A quasi-compulsory interest in films was the norm in the Zulueta household. We now know that Iván grew up watching several films a day at cinemas in Donostia or at any location they would go to. Most of the films were from Hollywood, or box-office successes at the time in Europe (France, Italy, Germany etc.). Although it is true that Die Brücke (Bernhard Wicki, 1959) was the film that would most fuel his enthusiasm for films at the age of sixteen, it is also true that classical US cinema and its offshoots (as was obvious in many refilming projects on the TV screen), from Walt Disney to Fred Astaire, from Frankenstein (James Whale, 1931) to All that Jazz (Bob Fosse, 1979), were what really stayed with him all his life. Even one of his latter film passions, David Lynch, can be better understood from the perspective of that legacy of classic films than from the experimental and underground US films so often cited. There was, of course, a time when these state-of-the-art references co-existed alongside his devotion to classic US cinema, but they arrived much later than is usually claimed, and their mark is not as deep as we think. Another key aspect which must be pointed out in this introduction, an essential point in relation to Iván Zulueta: he never stopped working. The fact that little of his work is complete and acknowledged does not mean he was lazy, or a dilettante. Certainly, coming from one of the wealthiest families in San Sebastián and the Basque Country may have transformed him into a whimsical personage with a classist view of his surroundings (which could be irritating for the people he talked to), but this, too, has no bearing on the small amount of finished work that we know about. In fact, for one reason or another, Iván Zulueta was in a constant state of creative excitement which, on certain occasions, was stormy, but on others tremendously joyful, as he personally pointed out on countless occasions: creation and enjoyment, joy, went hand in hand with Iván. Zulueta was an artist with an obsessive drive for generating and an almost pathological need to express the ideas that bombarded him in a state of constant excitement. Even during times of total shutdown. Goaded on by the need to find an outlet for all the thoughts rushing around inside his head, it nevertheless comes as no surprise that all of them hardly ever got past the phase of sketches, notes or treatments. But on certain occasions it was excess production that somehow strangled the possibility of establishing work in an acceptable circulatory format (plastic art, films or photography). The films forming part of these programmes limped up here as a combination of 8 mm and Super 8 film rolls, arriving at Filmoteca Española in November 2020, straight from storage outside San Sebastián, where they remained for over a decade, after Iván’s death. Unfortunately, some of the material in that batch of more than 80 rolls, mainly 35 mm acetates, was in no condition for any images to be retrieved, and had to be destroyed. When it had been digitalised to 4K, and we saw the contents for the first time, we realised that some of the ideas that we are setting out in this text and that, subsequently, will be enhanced in the examination of the rest of the documentation and works (complete or incomplete) forming part of the legacy acquired by Filmoteca Española. Zulueta’s creative drive was inexhaustible, his production could not be encompassed, and enjoyment and recreation were inseparable from his work and the production process itself (even when he ventured into darker, marshier areas). If there is one way of understanding the work of Iván Zulueta in all its complexity, it can only be the ability to draw a dotted line starting out from Andy Warhol and ending at Michael Jackson. In the most unorthodox, ductile and viscose sense of the term “pop”. In this way, and only in this way, can we depart the common sites of the accursed, experimental, conflictive artist who, ten years on from his death, must finally now be left behind. Although these 7 (+1) programmes contain practically all the unseen film material retrieved with acquisition of the fund, it is true that they do not contain all the films appearing in it. A few films of more than dubious origin and some completed works that had already emerged are missing (La fortuna de los Irureta, Aquarium or A Mal Gam A, for example). Most of the material, practically all of it except the material from the first session (Las películas de Consuelo y Antonio, covering the 1930s to the 50s), correspond to the 70s (with some, very few, from the years immediately preceding, and some that creep quietly into the 80s). We are talking about a decade of expansion of Iván Zulueta’s personality and creativity. When he had overcome his fears and insecurities following the period of the Official Film School, the confidence afforded him by his participation in the Spanish TV programme Último grito (1968-1970) and the apparently unsatisfactory experience of Un, dos, tres, al escondite inglés (1970), the 1970s was the decade of experimentation (vital), freedom and pleasure. This is what most of these works focus on. Enjoy them. There are no red frames lurking around (nor do we need them).

    Josetxo Cerdán y Miguel Fernández Labayen
    Instituto Universitario del Cine Español. Universidad Carlos III de Madrid