Lecture: "Erotic Passions: the Spanish Transition and the Early Work of Bigas Luna" | Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies
University of Pittsburgh

Lecture: "Erotic Passions: the Spanish Transition and the Early Work of Bigas Luna"

March 17, 2015 - 5:30pm
Dr Santiago Fouz Hernández, Durham University

Co-organized with the University of Pittsburgh Film Studies Program

Cosponsored by the University of Pittsburgh European Union Center of Excellence/European Students Center and Humanities Center

Bigas Luna’s Early Erotic Passions

This talk focuses on three early films by Bigas Luna: Bilbao (1978) and Caniche (1979) and Lola (1986), often regarded as a ‘sex trilogy’. It starts with a brief discussion of the problematic relationships between the director and his female leads. Isabel Pisano (protagonist of Bilbao) famously wrote about how this role ended her acting career (Pisano 2001), while his once wife and protagonist of Caniche Consol Tura divorced the director partly due to the pressures caused by her controversial starring role in that film (although she continued working as the casting director for most of his films). Long and very public feuds with female starts became a constant throughout his career. These were partly motivated by the director’s self-proclaimed obsession with myths and taboos about women and the female body and a penchant for their explicit depiction in his films. I will argue that controversies like these have tended to dominate and obscure the critical reception and the sociological and aesthetic value of the films.

The paper will then explore formal aspects of the erotic narrative of these three films, paying special attention to strategies by which they encourage the spectator’s active engagement with sensitive and, for some, repellent and abject subjects. These include prostitution and sadomasochism in Bilbao, or zoophilia and incest in Caniche. The analysis will engage with Kristeva’s (1980) theory of abjection and various inflections of Barker’s (2009) concept of cinematic tactility as key analytical tools to study the kind of reaction illustrated in this Spanish review of Bilbao:

Through a carefully crafted and extremely passionate succession of close-ups, the universe that surrounds the disturbed Jové [the protagonist] constantly contracts and expands, to the point of nausea (…) Bilbao is a visceral and violent experiment that seems determined to push all limits (Martínez 1997).

Works cited

Barker, Jenniffer M. The Tactile Eye: Touch and the Cinematic Experience. Berkeley and Los Angeles, University of California Press, 2009.

Kristeva, Julia. Powers of Horror: an Essay on Abjection, trans. Leon S Roudiez. New York: Columbia University Press, 1980.

Martínez, Luis. ‘Bilbao’ (review), El País (December 4, 1997)  http://elpais.com/diario/1997/12/04/radiotv/881190011_850215.html. Last consulted 16 April 2012.

Pisano, Isabel. Sombras de Bigas, luces de Luna. Madrid: Sociedad General de Autores y Editores, 2001.



Santiago Fouz Hernández is Senior Lecturer (Associate Professor) in Spanish Cinema at Durham University (UK). He is author of the books Cuerpos de cine: masculinidades carnales en el cine y la cultura popular contemporáneos, and, with Alfredo Martínez-Expósito, Live Flesh: The Male Body in Contemporary Spanish Cinema (I B Tauris, 2007). He is also editor of Mysterious Skin: Male Bodies in Contemporary Cinema (I B Tauris, 2009) and co-editor of Rethinking 'Identities': Western Cultural Articulations of Alterity and Resistance in the New Millennium (2014) and Madonna’s Drowned Worlds (2004). He is reviews editor of Studies in Spanish and Latin American Cinemas since 2003. Currently he is preparing a monograph on Bigas Luna for Manchester University Press, a special journal issue also on Bigas Luna (SSLAC 13.1), and an edited collection entitled Spanish Erotic Cinema for Edinburgh University Press.


E-mail: Santiago.fouz@durham.ac.uk

Dr Santiago Fouz Hernández

School of Modern Languages and Cultures

Durham University


United Kingdom

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