Bardem, Pilar

Bardem, Pilar
(1939- )
   Since 1965, Pilar Bardem (sister of director Juan Antonio Bardem) has been featured in over 60 films, mostly in very small supporting parts, before earning audience awareness in 1995. Among the list of mostly mediocre films are a few well-known titles (Los claros motivos del deseo [ The Clear Motives of Desire, Miguel Picazo, 1977 ], La Regenta [ The Regent's Wife, Gonzalo Suárez, 1974 ], El libro del buen amor [ The Book of Good Love, Tomás Aznar and Julián Marcos, 1975 ], El puente [ The Holiday, Juan Antonio Bardem, 1977 ]), but it is hard to remember Bardem in any of them, and the mixture suggests the aimless career of a character actress struggling to make ends meet and taking insignificant parts in cheap horror and Ozores factory Landismo comedies. She was used convincingly for the first time in Todo por la pasta (All for the Dough, Enrique Urbizu, 1991), and in spite of the brevity of her appearance as an old woman in a derelict tenement house, she projected a stunning raw intensity.
   Bardem's talents were finally given due credit with Nadie hablará de nosotras cuando hayamos muerto (No One Will Talk About Us When We're Dead, Agustín Díaz Yanes, 1995), in which she played an old Republican teacher, mother of a sick bullfighter and mother-in-law to Victoria Abril's alcoholic loser. Her Doña Julia was justly praised as a beacon of serenity in a corrupt world, as emblematic of the "best Spain" still alive and triumphant after being buried for over 40 years. One can feel both the regret of Bardem's character in the face of a life that started so promisingly and the essential dignity of a woman who may have been crushed by material circumstances, but whose soul was never conquered by the corrupt regime.
   After this, she became very much a popular character actress, always in demand, alternating comic caricatures and more fully realized parts. Age and an austere physique made it hard for her to find good starring roles, but she shone in a number of brief appearances, often as a mother figure in Airbag (Juanma Bajo Ulloa, 1997), Carne trémula (Live Flesh, Pedro Almodóvar, 2006, where she has a memorable cameo as surrogate mother to Penélope Cruz), Pantaleón y las visitadoras (Pantaleón and the Call Girls, Francisco J. Lombardi, 2000), or 20 Centímetros (20 Centimeters, Ramón Salazar, 2005), as among the most popular.
   Her most heartfelt starring performance and a part to which she was particularly committed was María querida (Dear Maria, 2004), a Rafael Azcona-scripted project of love in which she played Spanish exile philosopher María Zambrano and was directed by José Luis García Sánchez. In a detailed and moving performance brimming with intellectual dignity, she recaptured the achievement of her breakthrough role. She won the best actress award at the Valladolid Film Festival and was nominated for the best actress Goya, among other acting prizes. She is the mother of actor Javier Bardem, and, like other members of her family, has been a forceful defender of left-wing causes and is a supporter of Izquierda Unida.
   Historical Dictionary of Spanish Cinema by Alberto Mira

Guide to cinema. . 2011.

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