People passing through Madrid’s Chueca neighborhood last week who wondered why a number of streets were blocked off and filled with film crew, need only have asked the locals to find out what was going on.
A poster stuck to a wall wasn’t much help: “Shooting in progress. Do not park.” Around a hundred people, among them actors and crew members, were in the process of changing the streets to how they would have looked in the early 1980s, at the height of the movida madrileña, the cultural wave that followed the end of the Franco dictatorship and that filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar rode to international success.
“Is Pedro Almodóvar really filming?” asked a passing couple, nearly blinded by the lighting. They were heading to a restaurant, but stopped to get a glimpse of the Oscar-winning director as he gave instructions to his team.
Almodóvar is winding up shooting on his latest, 20th movie Silencio (Silence), which stars Emma Suárez and Adriana Ugarte. When shooting began in May, the filmmaker described his new project as a dark drama set in a “female universe.” It tells the story of a woman who is abandoned by her friends over the course of three decades. The cast also includes Rossy de Palma, Inma Cuesta, Nathalie Poza, Michelle Jenner, Priscilla Delgado, Susi Sánchez, Pilar Castro, Daniel Grao, Joaquín Notario and Darío Grandinetti.
They asked us if we could change our window dressing and put in some clothes from the 1980s instead” Local store owner Paloma González
“It’s Friday night, you’ve just come from some club, and you’re saying hi to each other,” one of the crew tells the extras, who are dressed in 1980s garb.
“It looks like I’m wearing a Picasso painting,” says a young woman looking at her dress, “but I love the red leather jacket,” she adds, stroking it as though it were a religious relic. Then suddenly everybody is brought to attention as a voice shouts: “Ready? Action.”
A little later, everybody is looking at the lead star, who is walking toward her apartment with a taciturn expression. One, two, three, cars pass in front of her. Then everybody stops, the cars reverse, and the scene is repeated. “The actress is Emma Suárez,” says a woman to her friend.
The crew hadn’t bothered to close off the street, Fernando VI, where shooting was taking place. Interior shots were being filmed in a rented apartment. A few hours before the shoot finished, a member of the team discussed some of the high points of making the movie: “The lighting was spectacular. A few weeks ago, there was a huge crane that lit up the whole of the inside of the building. It reminded me of Rear Window.”
Despite the inconveniences, local people seem delighted at the presence of the film crew. One resident could be heard telling another how, 20 years ago, she had been an extra in Almodóvar’s The Flower of My Secret. “I’m in the scene when the doctors are demonstrating. I was aged just 24: how time flies. They looked after us, and there was as much water and as many sandwiches as you wanted,” she remembered, smiling.
“Almodóvar went into that fruit shop to buy cherries, pears and peaches,” said Shiraida Pérez, a local store clerk. But one bar manager was not so impressed. Although he had taken a number of photographs on his smartphone, and said a girl had been hassling Almodóvar to give her an audition, he was also scandalized that the crew were allowed to park their cars in a no-parking zone: “As though they owned the place! With all this going on at night, nobody is coming into the bar. Almodóvar came in with a few others one day to have a drink, but they all had to go. It was 4.30 and we had to close.”
All the store owners in the area seem to have a story, such as Paloma González, who co-manages a nearby clothing store. “They asked us if we could change our window dressing and put in some clothes from the 1980s instead.” Someone else said they asked a passer-by to wait two minutes to cross the road while a shot was being filmed, but she took no notice, and barged right across the Silencio set.