Placido (1961): Spanish Luis García Berlanga’s Black Comedy, and Best Foreign Language Oscar Nominee

Luis García Berlanga directed Placido, a Spanish black comedy, which was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar.

Plácido (film).jpg

Spanish film poster

It also played at the 1962 Cannes Film Festival.

In a small provincial town, a group of “pious” women, fond of ostentatiously practicing charity, organize Christmas campaign under the motto “Feed a poor man at your table.”

In order to support the initiative, the sponsorship of a pot brand is sought. Thus, a group of second-rate artists who have come from the capital, are invited and are received enthusiastically at the train station. The humanitarian day is completed with colorful parade, public auction of the guests and dramatic radio broadcast.

The person in charge of organizing this lavish chain of events is Quintanilla, who has hired Plácido, a poor man who must use the motorcycle car that he has acquired and has not yet begun to pay for.

The hectic activity of Plácido prevents him from paying on time the first payment on the vehicle, which expires that same night. From that moment, Placido tries to find solution to his problem because his vehicle is his means of earning a living.

However, he is taken from one place to another, with all kinds of unexpected incidents, including comedy of errors about an elderly beggar with heart problems.

The film concerns a race against time to get the money paid before the deadline expires. Berlanga’s social satire pokes fun at rich people trying to soothe their consciences by helping a poor person for one day. Along the way we see their disgust at being near the poor, debates over whether it’s better to choose a street person or an elderly poor person, and showing off “their” poor person to their friends as though they were a possession. Berlanga also pokes fun at actors more concerned about photo ops appearing to show them as charitable than actually being charitable.

The idea came from a campaign created by the Franco regime in the fifties that, under the slogan Sit a poor man at your table, urged citizens to share Christmas Eve dinner with those who did not have enough resources of a hot meal. Far from being altruistic charity, this campaign seemed to seek the reconciliation of citizens with their consciences through isolated gesture of solidarity. This apparent selfishness, camouflaged as false solidarity, inspired Berlanga to write the screenplay.

It was named best Spanish film of 1961 by the Círculo de Escritores Cinematográficos, and Berlanga Best Director.

Cassen as Plácido Alonso (as Casto Sendra ‘Cassen’)
José Luis López Vázquez as Gabino Quintanilla
Elvira Quintillá as Emilia
Manuel Alexandre as Julián Alonso
Mario Bustos as (as Mario de Bustos)
María Francés
Mari Carmen Yepes as Martita (as Carmen Yepes)
Jesús Puche as Don Arturo
Roberto Llamas
Amelia de la Torre as Doña Encarna de Galán
Juan G. Medina
José María Caffarel as Zapater
Xan das Bolas as Rivas
Laura Granados as Erika
Juan Manuel Simón

Directed by Luis García Berlanga
Written by Luis García Berlanga, Rafael Azcona, José Luis Colina
José Luis Font
Produced by Alfredo Matas
Cinematography Francisco Sempere
Edited by José Antonio Rojo
Music by Miguel Asins Arbó

Release date: November 3, 1960

Running time: 85 minutes