The Disenchantment

English Title: The Disenchantment

Original Title: El Desencanto

Country of Origin: Spain

Studio: Elías Querejeta PC

Director: Jaime Chávarri

Producer(s): Elías Querejeta

Screenplay: Jaime Chávarri, Elías Querejeta

Cinematographer: Teo Escamilla

Editor: José Salcedo

Runtime: 97 minutes

Genre: Documentary

Language: Spanish

Starring/Cast: Felicidad Blanc, Juan Luis Panero , Lepoldo María Panero, Michi Panero

Year: 1976

Volume: Spanish / Portuguese

The poet Leopoldo Panero, a former communist transformed into a Franco supporter through fear of death, died in Astorga in 1962, the city where he was born. Fourteen years later his family, his widow Felicidad Blanc and his three sons, Juan Luis, Leopoldo Maria and Michi, all artists or poets, and most closely connected to him, come together to talk of his life to camera. Their differences and their identities show in a film that turned into a metaphor for the transition of Franco´s Spain to democracy because, paradoxically, the ‘disenchantment’ seemed to refer to the slowness of the changes of the new regime of freedoms.

Thirty years after the first showing in Spain of The Disenchantment – which was continued in the Ricardo Franco sequel, Después de tantos años (After All These Years) (1994) – its significance in, cinematic terms, as a pioneer was not, in general, understood.  It was conceived by two poets, Leopoldo Maria and Juan Luis Panero, along with their brother Michi, and their mother, Felicidad Blanc; and with the figure of their father, fellow poet Leopoldo Panero, floating above the filming like a ghost. They were not professional actors, but for the majority of specialist critics, they turned their performance into a cinematic classic.
This curious symbiosis of cinema and poetry was shown in these two features in which the protagonists performed (the Panero films made a seminal impression on later generations of film-makers). The book entitled Después de tantos desencantos (After all These Disenchantments) details the poetic elements that they wanted to tackle in the two films, which were nevertheless buried in the spectacle of the films and their more intimate and familial elements. A collection of poems dedicated by the authors to the two productions exists in addition to their criticisms of these cinematographic extravaganzas and, finally, some very perspicacious opinions on international cinema by Juan Luis, Leopoldo Maria and Michi.
The legend of the Paneros and the supposed curse on the lineage which ends with them – none procreated nor are known to have any descendents – adds credibility to a premonition: it was in The Disenchantment that Michi debated sarcastically whether or not his family took after the Wittelsbachs, the line of kings and princesses that also fell victim to its own peculiarities, and about which Juan Luis wrote: ‘No habían nacido para vivir sino para morir / y supieron, con indudable perfección, ser fieles a esa norma’ (‘They  were not born to live but to die / and knowing with unquestionable perfection to be faithful to this standard’). It may be that these two films help us to better understand and value its protagonists as, after so many disappointments, few things about the daily life of the Paneros can now be considered to be especially extravagant, if observed from outside the artistry: the films have remained a rarity, although they seem to have marked a common moment in a time of transition in Spain to which the citizens owe a great deal. Even compared with the leisure pursuits and entertainments of today, the vice and madness seem to be elsewhere, and not in Leopoldo Maria, now hospitalized in a psychiatric centre. This is the sad and dismal part of the only legend that surrounds them – and that has made this film a ‘classic’ Spanish film about the heartbreaking testimonies of his family – Leopoldo Panero Senior, the great poet of Franco, was formerly a Communist.
The Paneros’ eruption onto the big screen was very enriching, but the mother, Felicidad Blanc, ended her days as an usher, albeit in a Palace, and Michi passed away in the care of Astorga (León) social services, friendless by his own confession. ls this a preview of what awaits the two Panero poets that we can still enjoy? Nobody knows because nobody asks, because practically nobody cares.
Their exceptionality was never fodder for the front pages, literary supplements or television interviews. They remained distanced from the majority of academies, universities and conferences, wealth and baubles. Ostentatious glory was not for them. But that majestic, extinguished ancestry knew how to contemplate its decay with the solemnity, lucidity and sanity which is the mark of the genius, ingenious and ingenuous.

Author of this review: Federico.Utrera