Banderas (top row, second from left) on the set of Genius Picasso. Photo: Jorge Guerrero/AFP.
Antonio Banderas is starring as Picasso in a TV adaptation of the artist's life by US director Ron Howard and is also set to feature as the Spanish painter in a film about Guernica.
It was written in the stars that one day Spanish star Antonio Banderas, who used to walk to school every morning past Pablo Picasso's childhood home, would have to play the great painter.
For years Malaga's second most famous son has been turning down offers to play its greatest, knowing that he "would be looked at with a magnifying glass." But finally Banderas has said yes — twice.
He's playing Picasso in a 10-part television series on the artist's tumultuous life steered by Hollywood heavyweight Ron Howard, and in a film on the 33 days he took to paint his anti-war masterpiece "Guernica" written by the Spanish great Carlos Saura.
"Movies are very good for events," Banderas said, "but for somebody's life, 10 hours of TV is a very interesting vehicle."
Even so, with someone like Picasso "no matter how well you do it, you are going to face criticism", the 57-year-old actor told AFP from the set of the new series, "Genius Picasso".
"It was same for Picasso," Banderas insisted. "He knew when he painted 'Les Demoiselles d'Avignon' people were going to try to kill him for it because it was not seen as proper at the time."
Picasso loomed large over Banderas' childhood in Malaga, the Andalusian port where they were born only four streets apart.
Paloma: 'You sound like my father'
"He was a hero. I remember my mother holding my hand and taking me to school in the morning past his house on the Plaza de la Merced," said the actor, who without his hair is not physically unlike the artist.
Another thought also comforts Banderas. He once met Picasso's daughter Paloma when he first arrived in Los Angeles and spoke very little English.
"I started to speak Spanish with her" and after a while "she closed her eyes and I thought, 'Oh my God, I'm boring this woman.'
"So I asked her if she was tired, and she said, 'No, not at all. When I close my eyes I can see my father, because you speak with the same accent as my him. That's how my father spoke, he spoke like you.'"
"I cannot compare myself with the most important artist of the 20th century, it would be stupid and ridiculous," said Banderas, who plays the artist in his later years, spending five hours a day in makeup before he steps onto the set.
Rather than a typical biopic, the series for National Geographic – shot partly in Budapest – is a "kind of cubist painting of him actually," he said. "We're going back and forth in his life continuously. It starts with the bombing of Guernica," the Basque town which was levelled by Hitler and Mussolini's bombers during the Spanish Civil War in 1937.
Pablo Picasso's painting Guernica, created in response to fascist forces' bombing of the village of Guernica in 1937. Cristina Quicler/AFP.
Reading between the lines
"The narrative is not linear, which is very good I think," said Banderas, who made his name in Pedro Almodovar films like "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown" before going to Hollywood.
He said his biggest struggle was not the makeup but trying to "understand Picasso", the choices he made politically and artistically and his relations with the women in his life.
"You have to constantly read between the lines trying to understand what was his truth," Banderas added.
As well as combing biographies of the painter, the actor talked with his grandson Olivier Widmaier, whose book "Picasso: An Intimate Portrait" is published in March.
Banderas' passion for the painter has also seen him keep faith for more than six years with Saura's long-delayed film "Guernica 33 Days", which sets his creation of Picasso's great painting against the backdrop of his stormy relationship with Dora Maar.
"It is completely different to what we're doing here, it is dedicated to 'Guernica', his great reflection on violence and the civil war. Carlos Saura wants to get away from realism and do something that is literally a painting. I am interested in that and I may still do it."
Sitges Mayor among others arrested in police investigation of alleged corruption
Aurora Carbonell, the mayor of Sitges and from the ERC party, has been arrested in connection with an alleged corruption investigation, that has also implicated 12 other people, including eight local councillors from the period 2017-2022.
At least four people have been arrested as part of the case, including the local ERC councillor Jaume Monasterio, who was responsible for public works in the last legislature.
The group are being investigated for the crimes of misuse of public funds, embezzlement, and falsification of documents in the awarding of grants and minor contracts in the previous two mandates.
The Spanish National Police and officers of their Economic and Fiscal Crime Unit (UDEF) carried out several searches on Wednesday morning in Sitges, including municipal offices and the homes of two people. The investigation is focused into the process of subsidies granted by the Sitges Town Council to the social entity ‘Taula del Tercer Sector’ (Third Sector Board) and another local co-operative. The police seized documents relating to the entities under investigation.
According to local sources, the police would be investigating, among other elements, if the entity was paid twice for the same service, or received a subsidy and a minor contract, for example.
According to El Pais, police sources have said that the investigation affects the local departments of Beaches and Social Welfare. The police are analysing various specific grants, some of €45,000, €100,000 and €120,000, among others, which may have allegedly gone to the entities under suspicion. According to reports, the total sum under investigation is €600,000.
The starting point of the case stems from a police report detailing the alleged irregularities in May 2022, discovered by the council’s own inspectors.
Carbonell, who was recently re-elected as mayor, has been mayor of Sitges since 2019. The court has ordered for Carbonell and eight councillors to be investigated, in addition to four others who were part of one of the entities and cooperatves also under investigation. The period of alleged corruption is over four years, and also affects the government team prior to Carbonell, according to reports, under the leadership of Miquel Forns (CiU).
The Sitges Town Council has since issued a statement to say that the investigation is connected to ‘external irregularities’ and that it denies any type of wrongdoing.
‘The facts under investigation had already been analysed internally,’ the statement read. ‘The Town Council, once possible external irregularities were detected, commissioned legal professionals to clarify the facts, stopping the subsidies, reviewing the files and starting the process for the return of the subsidies that were not fully justified. The Council has reports that ensure the absence of administrative and even less criminal responsibilities, and which demonstrate the diligence of the Sitges Town Council.’
The statement went on to say that the council ‘is a transparent institution, which has a rigorous code of ethics that ensures the highest standards of integrity’.
It said that it would be making itself ‘available to the authorities in order to show our full collaboration in whatever is necessary’ and ‘reiterates our willingness to cooperate with justice at all times’.
Spain’s far-right Vox seek to make gains in 28 May local and regional elections
Spain’s third largest political group in the national parliament, the far-right Vox party, is looking to make gains in the local and regional elections due to be held across the country on 28 May.
Since it entered a regional government for the first time in Castilla y León last year, Vox has attacked the unions and pushed polarising positions on social issues, including abortion and transgender rights.
It is now poised to spread its influence beyond the sparsely populated region near Madrid, with the party hoping to make gains in the elections at the end of May.
Surveys suggest the main opposition, the right-wing People’s Party (PP), could need the support of Vox to govern in half of the 12 regions casting ballots, just as it did in Castilla y León last year.
Polls also indicate the PP is on track to win a year-end general election but would need Vox to form a working majority and oust socialist (PSOE) Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and his coalition government from office.
Vox leader Santiago Abascal [pictured at a recent rally in Chinchón, near Madrid] has called the PP-VOX coalition government in office in Castilla y León since March 2022 a ‘showroom’ and ‘an example of the alternative Spain needs’.
It is Spain’s first government to include a far-right party since the dictatorship of Francisco Franco.
In Castilla y León, Vox has slashed funding to unions, which the party has vowed to ‘put in their place’ if it comes to power nationally. Trade union UGT was forced to lay off 40% of its staff in Castilla y León last month and scale back programmes to promote workspace safety. Spain’s other main union, the CCOO, is reportedly preparing to follow suit.
Vox has also angered LGBTQ groups by refusing to allow the regional parliament to be lit up in the colours of the rainbow, the symbol of the gay rights movement, for Pride festivities as in past years when the PP governed alone.
In addition, the regional vice-president, Vox’s Juan García-Gallardo, has railed against a law passed by Spain’s leftist central government that extends transgender rights.
The 32-year-old lawyer warned earlier this month that women would now be ‘forced to share locker rooms with hairy men at municipal swimming pools’.
Vox’s most contested initiative was a proposal that doctors offer women seeking an abortion a 4D ultrasound scan to try to discourage them from going ahead with the procedure.
The idea was swiftly condemned by Spain’s leftist central government, and Castilla y León’s PP president Alfonso Fernández Mañueco stopped the measure from going ahead.
The issue highlighted the hazards for the PP of joining forces with Vox, which was launched in 2013 and is now the third-largest party in the national parliament.
Spain – Gas falls below 90 euros per MWh for the first time in almost two months
The price of TTF natural gas for delivery next month has fallen below 90 euros on Friday for the first time in almost two months and closes a week marked by the decision of the European Commission to cap gas with a drop of 29, 36%.
According to data from the Bloomberg platform, gas closed this Friday at 83 euros per megawatt-hour (MWh), 8.9% less than the day before and the first time it has lost 90 euros since last October 31.
After months of negotiations, the EU agreed on Monday to set a cap of 180 euros on contracts linked to the Amsterdam TTF index with a price difference of at least 35 euros above the average price of liquefied natural gas in the markets.
EU countries agree on a cap of 180 euros for gas with the support of Germany
In a report this week, the Swiss investment bank Julius Baer indicated that the chances of the mechanism being activated are low and pointed out that the chosen formula was not very effective in avoiding the multiplier effect that gas has on the price of electricity. However, he reiterated what was said in other previous reports: “Energy supply risks are minimal and prices should continue to decline in the future” due to the availability of raw materials from Asia to offset cuts from Russia.
Gas tends to fall during the hot months due to lower demand, but this summer it has reached historic heights as European countries were buying to face the winter with their tanks full and reduce their dependence on Russia. The price fell in September and October due to lower demand once the warehouses were full due to the high temperatures at the beginning of autumn, but in November it picked up again and 66% more expensive.
This article was originally published on Público
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