Luis García Berlanga's
MUST END THURSDAY, JUNE 30
Directed by Luis García Berlanga
Starring Nino Manfredi
DCP. Approx 90 min.
A match made in Heaven, as undertaker Nino Manfredi (the Italian comedy super-star), who can’t get dates because of his job, meets Emma Penella, a woman with the same problem: Men can’t get past the occupation of her aging father, the state-appointed executioner in charge of dispatching convicts via the gruesome, medieval garotte. Then it’s wedding bells, a baby… and a beautiful new apartment – but only if the mild-mannered, squeamish Manfredi inherits his father-in-law’s job.
A scathing social satire, THE EXECUTIONER somehow managed to evade Franco-era censors (though the Generalissimo himself famously called Berlanga “worse than a Communist … a bad Spaniard”). Co-written by Berlanga’s longtime collaborator Rafael Azcona (who later wrote the Oscar-winning BELLE ÉPOQUE, and co-wrote Alberto Lattuada’s MAFIOSO) and Ennio Flaiano (co-writer of many Fellini classics), THE EXECUTIONER was shot in glorious black & white by Tonino Delli Colli (cinematographer for both Pasolini and Sergio Leone). It premiered at the 1963 Venice Film Festival, where it won the Italian Critics’ Prize and was nominated for the Golden Lion.
The seventeen films made by Berlanga (1921-2010) over 50 years (from 1951, through the death of Franco in 1975, to the end of the 20th century) have established him one of his country’s greatest chroniclers. In Spain, Berlanga is widely regarded, along with Luis Buñuel, as one of the country’s two greatest directors, though he is still relatively unknown outside his native country.
A JANUS FILMS RELEASE
“A brilliantly dark comedy.”
– Time Out
“All of Spanish cinema derives from Buñuel and Berlanga. It’s unfair that Berlanga hasn’t been accorded the same status or importance as Buñuel.”
– Pedro Almodóvar
“It's an indictment of capital punishment on par with Oshima's DEATH BY HANGING and Kieslowski's A SHORT FILM ABOUT KILLING, but this pitch-black comedy, released at the peak of the Franco era, is less timely agitprop than timeless study in ordinary desperation.”
– Jose Teodoro, Film Comment
“Formally Berlanga's most elegant film… A powerful condemnation of capital punishment and the Francoist myths of duty and patriotism.”
– Elliott Stein, The Village Voice
“You could say that THE EXECUTIONER is a one-joke comedy and that the joke isn't funny. This sounds like a death sentence for any movie, but in fact it's the key to why Luis García Berlanga's film is so wonderful. The whole story is devoted to a single absurd yet perfectly credible premise, a joke aimed at society and the human condition, delivered deadpan with a pace more funereal than farcical.”
– David Cairns
“Berlanga’s directorial hand is remarkable for its navigation of glances and hesitations, especially among the three leads.”
– Slant Magazine