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Strange Beauty
Juan Manuel Domínguez

The medium-length film No conteu amb els dits, Pere Portabella’s first work as a director, starts with the following phrase: “defeated…but not conquered”. This may or should be taken as an allusion to the technical K.O. –see interview – taken by Portabella from Franco’s regime during the sixties as regards his work as a producer. Through the extremely raging playthings of the words of Catalan poet Joan Brossa, Portabella attempts to dismantle the forms of advertising discourse of that time in No conteu amb els dits. Even so, the director uses some characteristic traits of this discourse, such as the voice off-screen, the brief duration or use of the human body as the reflection of the “ideal” aesthetics of the product; the nexus of these advertising dogmas will be the grounds for using the cinematic speeds with which Portabella breaks sound and image barriers, intentionally, pagan.

Any of the twenty-eight fragments which form the unity of No conteu amb els dits not only electrifies and overloads the traditional advertising forms but endows these with a power which, all together, rules out the value of the content by the absurd and increases the visual power of the iconography being used. A similar process can be seen in a recent film: Zoolander. Although in matters of form and affection Ben Stiller’s film stands poles apart from Portabella’s dry experimental nature, it nevertheless plunged into the publicity discourse of its time and showed up the violence, nonsense, and potential bestiality of this. In both cases, both in Pere Portabella and Ben Stiller, there would seem to be a despair, an enormous desire for this world, which they know how to empty of content and fill with a strange beauty (Pere Portabella) or strange love (Ben Stiller), to appear like another world. No conteu amb els dits ends up with the blank screen announcing its cinematographic and thus infinite status; Zoolander ends up with an aerial shot burying Ben Stiller’s Utopia in the middle of a metropolis. Both types of cinema know they are defeated – but not conquered.


Article written by Juan Manuel Domínguez about the film No compteu amb els dits (Don’t Count on Your Fingers). It was published in the catalogue of the 8th edition of the Buenos Aires International Independent Film Festival (BAFICI) on the occasion of the film retrospective dedicated to Pere Portabella. The retrospective took place at the festival and at the Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires in May 2006.

No compteu



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Pere Portabella – Films 59.