Int.: Musidora, Antonio Cañero. Prod.: Société des Films Musidora. 35mm. D.: 59’. Bn.
Here I am in the La tierra de los toros, finishing the edit, which is more complicated than the hardest Chinese puzzle. I hope I come out on top. This is the hardest and riskiest of productions. My latest stars (which are magnificent bulls) move and perform expressively. I “fought” them myself and I am proud of this beyond utterance. No one can say I used a stand-in for those scenes that my sex entitles me to turn down. Perhaps this will help us obtain, who knows, the right to vote some day. Dear Cinémagazine, more soon.
Musidora, “Cinémagazine”, n. 15, April 11th, 1924
For the last of her films, Musidora came up with an innovative scheme that was part live performance, part cinema: a total spectacle over which she reigned as film actress, chanteuse and theatre performer, a performance on screen and on stage, in comic mode, a set of Russian dolls, a self-deprecatingly fictionalised account of herself. Playing on her own image, Musidora settles her scores, with filmmaking as an art, with the press, with the star system and with her audience. She does so wittily, sincerely, quite naturally, with no sort of bitterness. Initially, the story was divided into five chapters: La vida de un ganadero (Life of a Breeder), La vispera de una corrida (The Eve of a Bullfight), El rejoneador (Bullfighter on Horseback), La fe Metamorfosis (Ugly Metamorphosis) and Epilogue. After 1922, a short and unsubtle version of the film entitled Una Aventura de Musidora en España, was included in her live Spanish performances. The story was written together with her love, Antonio Cañero, and co-funded by both. La Tierra de los toros is the only film in which Musidora is presented as sole director and author of an original drama. The film – starring Musidora and Cañero – is formally free, as free as its director, combining documentary and drama. For this reason, it remained a far cry from the commercial standards of its time, a fact that proved an obstacle in distributing the film. It was shown in Spain in February 1924. We have been hard pushed to discover any screenings at all in France, aside from one in Lyon on June 3rd, 1924.
Marién Gómez Rodríguez
On the occasion of this retrospective, a screening interrupted three times by a live performance, modelled on Musidora’s 1922 to 1924 shows, and performed here by Los Musidoros: Émilie Cauquy, Marién Gómez Rodríguez, Clément Lafite, Frédéric Tabet, Elodie Tamayo.
It is a great thing in life to come up with projects and see them happen, even if this takes time. And there is nothing more likely to generate projects than cinema, which offers a vast reservoir of ideas, wherein to search and sift and choose.
Musidora, “Le Film”, January 15th, 1920
Though no actual source testifies to Musidora’s live performances (no recordings survive, nor a detailed cue-sheet for a show improvised on a location-by-location basis), we do know that Musidora and Antonio Cañero’s live appearances were based on an original screenplay, as evidenced by the appearance of a stage manager in the release print. Generally speaking, we have felt free to reproduce an ambience, to retrace a geographical passion (Andalusia, Seville, Córdoba) and to imagine Musi’s fantastical, free-spirited presence as a filmmaker and as a woman in love. The ghostly nature of that presence is intended. Our idea was not to offer an interpreted version of Musidora’s persona but rather to depict the nature of her presence by a variety of means, with the clumsy precision of the archivists and researchers turned travelling players that we are. This fantasy is based on intimate records (letters), on archival matter (original screenplay, director’s notes), official publications (including articles and radio broadcasts) as well as entirely invented material (playing cards, rhythmical punctuations such as flamenco zapateos, jaleos and palmas, not to mention fans, mantillas and music-boxes). Words, sounds and projected images to make the heart beat faster.