Like the war cry of the forgotten province, this year’s Punto de Vista Heterodocsias section is also followed by an exclamation mark. As is usual in this space, it is about crying out. Crying out the name of somebody to reclaim it and bring it to light. There has been a lot of talk about Maenza recently, but to date, a retrospective that puts him on a par with Berzosa, Valcárcel Medina and other names cried out in this Heterodocsias section of Spanish filmmakers in previous editions has never been organised within an International Film Festival.
Going biographical for a moment, we would say that Maenza was born in Teruel in 1948 and died in Zaragoza in 1979, at the early age of 31, probably as a result of suicide (he appeared dead in the street having fallen/jumped from the first floor of a dwelling). [José] Antonio Maenza, as he signed his name, with the José between brackets, was younger in age than the early death of other cursed artists with an unfortunate end, such as (in descending order): Anibal Nuñez (43), Aliocha Coll (42), Eduardo Haro Ibars (40), Pedro Casariego Córdoba (37)… but not of the insuperable Francisco Casanova, who died at the age of 18. Like the life of all of them, his was also mythically premature, frantically accelerated, as told by those who associated with him and knew him well. His father ran a mattress store and it was known that he loved his mother above all else. His military service in Huesca was more than hell and many say that Maenza left as a broken man. In the fragmentary and autobiographical novel that he left behind, Séptimo medio indisponible, he wrote things like:
I'm very sensitive to the good and beautiful. Sensitive to sensibility.
Senselessness, voiced by Luis Buñuel, is the adjective that has most unjustly become famous to describe Maenza, due to an episode in which he confronted some Falangists in Calanda. Others coincide on a disproportionate person, who suffered an imbalance with reality which was worsening, with many obsessions and mania until he ended up on a pilgrimage through psychiatrists. Vila-Matas remembers his incurable kleptomania, parallel to the bibliophily, and tells how he filled his bookshelves with the books of others. Pere Portabella remembers his verbal incontinence, full of political quotes and speeches. As he was, Maenza would never go unnoticed. Poet-writer of unfinished works, some remember with great surprise the silence into which he entered in his final months of life when his desire to be ordained as a priest increased and he went into a retreat that he did not fulfil. He read Martin Virgil, as soon as he devoured the full works of Primo de Rivera, and he had done so with the books of Althusser, Lacan or Lautréamont. Many say that Maenza was unrealistic. Perhaps the adjective that best defines him. As Javier Hernández, author of the interesting biography, Maenza filming in the battlefield, in conjunction with Pablo Pérez, so rightly says of him:
He was like the brick from Teruel that is brittle but at the same time, produces unrepeatable Mudejar filigrees.
And his films, once more senseless, disproportionate, could never go unnoticed precisely because they were unacceptable. He only made three films that he abandoned, without finishing and hardly screened. To trace the few possible lines in his heterodox films, we can present the Maenza Geography, as he made each film in a different city. If we put pins on a map, like in a police station when investigating the crimes of a murderer that are so repetitive as they are elusive, we will see that the places where his films were made (and undoubtedly this is the best verb to speak of the action of his shoots: perpetrate a film), respond to the isosceles triangle of his short life.
To start with, Zaragoza in 1968, the setting for his debut, the city where he studied Philosophy and Arts and the faculty that produced his first film, El lobby contra el cordero. Then came Valencia, which is the chosen city for his second film Orfeo filmando en el campo de batalla (Orpheus Filming in the Battlefield) (1968-1969) and where he arrived to work with another poet who died prematurely: Eduardo Hervás (21 years old). And finally, at the apex of the triangle, Barcelona, the third city, that of Hortensia/Beancé (1969) with scenes in Cadaques, the presence of the gauche divine of that period and the city’s urban scene such as Azúa, Emma Cohen, Vila-Matas. In this last film, we can extend our Maenza map and take it to Japan as, influenced by the No theatre, many of the scenes take us to that country in pictorial atmosphere. The fourth crime, is now known, a crime which brought him back to Zaragoza and in which he was the only star.