Isbert’s lesson

In the film industry we call them “cinema animals”. Before, in the theatre world, they were defined as actors who “give out energy”. They are the monsters, the born comedians, those who always achieve a sudden, powerful and magic communication with their audience.

That was the case with Pepe Isbert. I followed him in all his interpretations since “El bailarín y el trabajador” (“The Dancer and the Worker”), with the hope he would work with me if my dream of becoming a film director ever came true.

A few years later, despite some early difficulties in our understanding, the encounter was possible. After “Welcome, Mr. Marshall” he was a regular in my films, and I think it was a fruitful collaboration for both of us.

I remember the amazement that his interpretation of a clumsy mayor caused in the Cannes Film Festival in 1953, and I am sure if there had been an adequate award at the time his name would have enriched its list of winners. I sincerely think that Pepe Isbert was better appreciated abroad than in its own country, and I think this was because of the little appreciation the role of supporting actor has always had among us; so much so that lately they have already been downgraded to the term “secondary actors”, when it is well known that in a lot of films the real “second-rate actors” are the leading actors. That was all José Isbert was. He was a supporting actor. But, together with so many other actors, he was also a person who consolidated an era of our cinema. An era which was despised by some, but loved, passionately, by so many people who went into the cinemas they had then to escape, a word which has been forbidden by the “intelligentsia” of the moment for many years.

So, I pay homage to Isbert, to his cinema and to this book, and I would only ask today’s actors, of which there are many, and brilliant ones, to accept again the term “supporting” and not to demand, as most of them do, to be only the lead actor, because, then, they may end up being nothing.

Luis García Berlanga

* “El cine de José Isbert”. Edición de Julio Pérez Perucha. Ayuntamiento de Valencia, Valencia, 1984.