Sacristán, José


Sacristán, José
(1937- )
   José Sacristán was born in Madrid. He trained as an actor with small roles in a number of touring companies until his film debut in 1965, in La familia y uno más (The Family. . . And One More, Fernando Palacios, 1965). Soon he became one of the recurring presences in desarrollismo comedy casts, normally playing a shy, put-upon, indecisive young man. Although he did some landismo films (Lo verde empieza en los pirineos [ Smut Starts in the Pyrenees, Vicente Escrivá, 1973 ]) playing a typically repressed Spanish male, he replayed this character in a more progressive context, increasingly adding a layer of bafflement in the face of new sexual customs in a number of Tercera vía comedies. He represented the Spanish male in a liberal position, one who had to keep up with the new view of life. Films like Españolas en París (Spanish Women in Paris, 1971), Vida Conyugal Sana (Healthy Conjugal Life, 1974), and Los nuevos españoles (The New Spaniards, 1974), all directed by the driving force behind Tercera Via, Roberto Bodegas, are very characteristic of the period, and perfectly showcase Sacristan's ability to play this particular kind of man: something about his unremarkable physique and put-upon grin made credible his parts as a very ordinary guy.
   The Transition period came naturally both for the persona Sacristán had polished, which evolved to keep up with the new challenges of increased sexual freedom, and for the actor himself, who became something of an icon of the period. Consequently, he became very prolific, maybe excessively so: he made eight films in 1977, and no less than 20, mostly playing protagonists, between 1977 and 1981. His role in José Luis Garci's Asignatura pendiente (Pending Subject, 1977), in which once again he played a man who struggles to catch up with change, and particularly to overcome sexual repression, became emblematic for a generation of Spaniards. The range he was allowed to show was narrow: he was more an easily identifiable presence, who carried with him particular traits, than a performer. Even in parts potentially distant from his persona, like the transvestite performer in Un hombre llamado Flor de otoño (A Man Named Autumn Flower, Pedro Olea, 1978), he seemed remote and unremarkable (never a good quality for a drag queen). Still, as one of the key actors of his generation, he participated in some of the most important films of the immediate post-Franco years, and very different directors exploited his qualities in interesting ways, as evidenced in a number of films including Las largas vacaciones del 36 (The Long Vacation of 1936, Jaime Camino, 1976), Solos en la madrugada (Alone in the Small Hours, José Luis Garci, 1978), El diputado (The Member of Parliament, Eloy de la Iglesia, 1979), La colmena (The Beehive, Mario Camus, 1982), Epílogo (Epilogue, Gonzalo Suárez, 1984), La noche más hermosa (The Most Beautiful Night, Manuel Gutiérrez Aragón, 1984), and La vaquilla (The Heifer, Luis García Berlanga, 1985). He also directed three films: Soldados de plomo (Toy Soldiers, 1983), Cara de acelga (Dumb Face, 1987), and the hit play adaptation Yo me bajo en la próxima, ¿y usted? (I Get Off at the Next Stop. . . How About You? 1992).
   Sacristán began to slow down in the late 1980s, and becoming more selective of his roles, with the consequence that his work became more distinctive. New depths were revealed in his role as the central character in Fernando Fernán Gómez's El viaje a ninguna parte (The Journey to Nowhere, 1986), and from then on, he did very distinctive performances making use of a variety of registers: satirical in Madregilda (Mother-Gilda, Francisco Regueiro, 1993), earnest and idealistic in Un lugar en el mundo (A Place in the World, Adolfo Aristaráin, 1992), or world-weary in El pájaro de la felicidad (The Bird of Happiness, Pilar Miró, 1993). He also had an important stage career, including, quite unexpectedly, as a musical star. In the 1990s, he played Professor Higgins in the Spanish version of My Fair Lady and Cervantes / Don Quixote in Man of La Mancha.
   Historical Dictionary of Spanish Cinema by Alberto Mira

Guide to cinema. . 2011.

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