Gaudí, alias López Vázquez

A Catalán historian confirms he possesses a fictional documentary, in which an actor plays the brilliant architect – the film, from 1974, was never shown.

José Luis López Vázquez was run over by a tram car in 1974. It was fictional and happened while the unforgettable actor, recently deceased, played Antoni Gaudí in a film in the shape of a fictional documentary of the last days of the life of the brilliant architect. What is interesting, however, is that this film, entitled Antoni Gaudí, an unfinished vision, never came to light. At least until, due to the death of the actor on Monday, that piece of lost cinema appears to have resurfaced.

The film was never seen because a bank embargoed the production company.

"They tried to sell it to a television station and to Seminci (International Film Week of Valladolid)", said Carles Querol.

The news made Cadena SER yesterday when the historian Carles Querol explained that he has a 16mm copy of the film, until now practically unpublished. He has the reel but, he warned, the rights are not his. They belong to a bank which kept the material in 1974 when it embargoed the producers of the film when they couldn’t pay for the loan – one million pesetas – take out for the filming.

"Recently, reading the filmography of López Vázquez on account of his death, I was surprised to find that at no point were there any references to this film”, commented Querol yesterday. It has a certain rationale. Even though in its day it was spoken about in the films press coverage, the film was never shown commercially in cinemas or on television. Very few people even remembered its existence. One of them was Joan Bassegoda, expert on Gaudí and author of the script of the film directed by the American John Alaimo. He was “mad” about the work of the modernist architect and decided to take his passion to the big screen with this one hour fictional documentary, produced by Pedro de Juan.

The script, explains Querol, who has seen the film a number of times, is simple. A young architect from Madrid, played by the also disappeared actor José María Lana, travels to Barcelona to meet Antoni Gaudí, a part played by José Luis López Vázquez almost by chance. Initially the producers had offered it to Fernando Rey, who turned it down due to his commitments to another film.

The Gaudí-López Vázquez- in the film guides the architect newly arrived from Madrid around the work of the real Gaudí. And during the tour of the Sagrada Familia or La Pedrera he explains his ideas about architecture and philosophy. “Everything López Vázquez said is taken from the notes of a student of Gaudí’s, Juan Bergós, who accompanied him on many of his walks and subsequently, unknown to the maestro, was compiling them”, explained Bassegoda yesterday, who based his script on the testimony of Bergós and other architects who knew Gaudí.

"There is no plot or story beyond the documentary stroll”, explains Querol. The only fictional moment is that of the fatal accident in which Antoni Gaudí was run over by a tram car on the Gran Vía of Barcelona.

The film, according to Bassegoda, was filmed in two weeks in the Ciudad Condal and it is not completely clear if it was intended to go straight to television or whether its launch in the cinema was also anticipated. Neither one nor the other. The production company could not repay the loan and the film ended up embargoed by the bank.

That is where Carles Querol comes in, who one year earlier had begun working at this financial entity to take care of and make use, specifically, of this type of material. “The negatives were sent to a specialist company who must still have them stored in good condition and at the bank we kept two 16mm copies of the film.”

"For a time, the bank tried to sell it to recover the money invested. This enabled me to view it several times”, he adds. "They tried to place the film with a Catalan television station or to Seminci, the Valladolid film festival and sell it in other forums, but they had no success. In 2000 I took early retirement and I forgot all about it. In addition, the bank had been taken over by another bank and this latter underwent another takeover itself. The archives underwent a number of moves in which all the things that were in principle no longer of use were done away with”. The “re-discovery” happened by accident around six months ago. Aware of his love of archives, old colleagues asked for his help in organising a celebration. "They wanted to know if he had kept the television adverts of the banking entity, the first one, in order to make copies for old colleagues as they could find nothing at the bank itself. I didn’t find them, of course, but I began to investigate and I knew that during one of the moves there had been a box with reels to be thrown away and that someone had kept it. I located that person and it did indeed contain those adverts and also a box with film about Gaudí".

Querol states that the copy that he recovered is in bad condition because it hadn’t been properly preserved. “It has lost colour and everything has a reddish hue”, he says, while simultaneously repeating that he has the reel but that “the rights still belong to the banking entity that placed the embargo”. Perhaps, he adds, there is still a second copy in better condition. Also, if searched for, it is possible that the documents attesting that the bank is also owner of the negatives of Antoni Gaudí, an unfinished vision, might be found.

"My interest in all this is purely historical,” states Querol. He is prepared to facilitate the necessary data to both the financial entity and the National or Catalan Film Library in the event they were to be interested in negotiating for the recovery of the film and its restoration. If so, the film could be shown with a slight delay of 35 years.

"I don’t want to mimic”

When José Luiz López Vázquez placed himself inside Gaudí’s skin, the work of the architect was well known, but his reputation was light years from the touristic hysteria it provokes nowadays. The actor, however, was indeed very aware of the issue and in an interview given to Spanish National Radio in February 1974 on account of the filming, stated that he accepted the role because he was “interested in the work and the character”. “I have always liked him and been captivated by this immense work”, he explained, but added that although both the director and scriptwriter had given him a lot of documentation, his intention was to limit his role to “giving a little veracity to this great character”.

"I don’t want to mimic Gaudí because I think it impossible, pedantic and emphatic. I am going to give an approximate physical appearance, I am going to wear an outfit, a form of human appearance, but not in absolute form, because I am not Gaudí", he said.

According to Joan Bassegoda, who spent many years together with the director, John Alaimo, trying to locate the film, the artistic quality of López Vázquez was one of the good points of Antoni Gaudí, an unfinished vision, as he played his role soberly. Yesterday he remembered how pleasant the filming had been and the simplicity of the actor. The subject matter was architecture and, given the scarcely few biographical data known about the architect, very frugal when it came to talking about emotions, and whose life was limited to work and religion, the film basically provided a guide to the exuberance of the buildings.

That is why, as well as due to the interest in seeing López Vázquez as Gaudí, a role he must play excellently, the film would have the added interest of seeing what the preservation of Gaudí’s work was like in the seventies.


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