Gómez Pereira, Manuel


Gómez Pereira, Manuel
(1958- )
   In a series of films since the mid-1990s, Manuel Gómez Pereira attempted a balance between the Hollywood approach to romantic comedy (restrained, star-based, and often chaste) and a Spanish tradition that had evolved out of landismo and erotic comedy but remained centered on sex and elements from the old costumbrista tradition. He revisited the mechanisms of classical vaudeville, allowing frivolity and surface to replace the obsession for sober realism that had seized Spanish cinema.
   Gómez Pereira was born in Madrid, and studied journalism and communications at the University. His feature debut Salsa Rosa (Pink Sauce, 1992) is already evidence of an attempt to achieve a model sexier than Hollywood vehicles but more sophisticated than the regular Mariano Ozores sex comedies. The plot devices in the film are the same as could be found in the golden age of the genre (mistaken identities, surprise turns, deception, running around), but at the same time he introduced a sense of European substance and, most importantly, allowed for a feminine perspective in his narratives. His next two films were also "pure" comedies that consolidated his reputation. ¿Por qué lo llaman amor cuando quieren decir sexo? (Why Do They Call It Love When They Mean Sex? 1993) presented for the first time in his filmography the world of sex workers. Todos los hombres sois iguales (All Men Are the Same, 1994) was a parody of traditional masculinity and a battle-of-the-sexes comedy that owed more to classical Tracy-Hepburn vehicles than to contemporary models.
   In all of these, Gómez Pereira worked with a team of close associates who would go on to careers as writer-directors: Joaquín Oristrell, Yolanda García Serrano, and Juan Luis Iborra. His next film as a director, and the hit that established him as one of the most solid commercial filmmakers of the 1990s, was Boca a Boca (Mouth to Mouth, 1995). Two sex workers (played here by Javier Bardem and Aitana Sánchez-Gijón) are, once again, the protagonists, and a range of sexual alternatives are represented that stray beyond the limits of sexual orthodoxy. In contrast with the Ozores factory counterparts, there is also a detailed plot construction, real acting, and a sense of mise en scene. Finally, women have a voice rather than just being represented as objects of the male gaze.
   Gómez Pereira's next effort was even more accomplished and an even bigger box-office hit: El amor perjudica seriamente a la salud (Love Seriously Damages the Health, 1996) presents a clever story about a mature couple who meet after 20 years of not seeing each other and remember the time in the 1960s when they had a brief affair. The desarrollismo-period background was not used politically (or rigorously) by Gómez Pereira, who chose instead to focus on surfaces, character, and plot. This is not a satire about Francoism (as, say, Rafael Azcona might have penned from a similar starting point), but a comedy about older, less-complicated times. The casting was note perfect: the mature woman protagonist was played by Ana Belén at her iciest best, and the man by Juanjo Puigcorbé, with Penélope Cruz and Gabino Diego as their younger selves.
   Gómez Pereira continued to work along similar lines, often from scripts written in collaboration with Oristrell. Entre las piernas (In Between the Legs, 1999) was an attempt to revisit the sexually mature perspective of Boca a boca, but lightness of touch was lost and the film was only moderately successful. Reinas (Queens), 2005, topically tackled gay marriage (this was the year a law allowing same-sex marriage was passed in Spain): four gay couples are going to get married, and their mothers gather together for the event. The dynamics between mothers and sons, as well as those within the couples, were articulated with a refreshing lightness of touch, in spite of the obvious difficulties for Gómez Pereira to keep all the plot strands going at a brisk pace without sacrificing comprehensibility.
   See also Homosexuality.
   Historical Dictionary of Spanish Cinema by Alberto Mira

Guide to cinema. . 2011.

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