Can Dialectics Break Bricks Cinema: El Pico (Eloy de la Iglesia, 1983)

170514_el_pico_smSunday May 14th 2017, Can Dialectics Break Bricks Cinema. El Pico (1983) by Eloy de la Iglesia. 105 minutes. In Spanish and Basque, with custom-made English subtitles. Door opens at 8pm, film begin at 9pm. Free admission.

This is the key movie of a much discussed genre called /cine quinqui/, which dealt mostly with heroin-use and small-time criminality.  While Europe seemingly only produced a handful of heroin dramas like Christiane F., in Spain the genre caught on like wildfire. Most of the films were low budget, rough and gritty in a wonderful Blaxploitation kind of way.

El pico is the culmination of the quinqui movement, but it is also much more than that. No longer a low-budget affair, this movie is a full-fledged political thriller set in the Basque country. At the time, Eloy de la Iglesia’s denunciation of the Guardia Civil’s involvement in the heroin trade sounded like a crazy conspiracy theory. It would take another fifteen years for the Supreme Court to endorse the accusations made in this movie (Caso UCIFA, 1997). Much like the CIA’s involvement in the Cointelpro heroin deals to hush down, frame or kill the ‘black power’ communities, the Guardia Civil worked hand in hand with drugdealers to stifle a rebellious unemployed Basque youth, who were still joining the ranks of ETA and nationalist parties.

If this wasn’t enough, El pico is also a film about homosexual emancipation. Quique San Francisco plays a brave, politically engaged, deeply humane gay character, and in the role of the beautiful young junkie we find Eloy de la Iglesia’s long-time lover Jose Luis Manzano, one of the many heroin celebrities of the time. As a teenager, Manzano had tried to mug the film director, but ended up starring in several of his films. Like many cine quinqui stars, the talented non-actor spent his life going from rehab to filmshoot to court-hearing, and he died of a bad heroin dose just a decade after this movie was shot.

The movie was a massive box-office success, despite the horrendous reviews by film critics in Spain. it was soon followed up with El pico 2, which presented drug use in a slightly more realistic way.

Film night at Joe’s Garage, cozy cinema! Doors open at 8pm, film begins at 9pm, free entrance. You want to play a movie, let us know: joe [at] squat [dot] net

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