Miró, Pilar

Miró, Pilar
b. 1940, Madrid; d. 1997, Madrid
   Pilar Miró studied law and journalism and in 1968 graduated in scriptwriting from the Escuela Oficial de Cine (EOC). Later she taught scriptwriting and montage at the EOC. In the 1960s she became the first woman to direct programmes and feature films for Spanish television, with over 300 programmes to her credit, ranging from literary adaptations to news bulletins and including drama and magazines. In 1982 she was made Under Secretary for the Cinema, the first woman ever to hold that post in Spain. During her years in office she issued the "Miró Law" which attempted to kickstart the Spanish film industry (never very strong hitherto), by instigating a state-funded system of advances against receipts. These measures launched the careers of such directors as Almodóvar and were of great benefit to the country's cinema. In 1986, after leaving this post she became Director of Spain's only public television channel, and her years in office were regarded as highly successful. However, as a woman in a high position she encountered much misogynistic criticism. She resigned from the post after being charged with spending public funds on her own clothes, a charge from which she was cleared in 1992.
   Miró maintained a strong and independent stance, but never considered herself to be a feminist. Nevertheless, her film career allows an insight into the difficulties and opportunities for a woman director in a country in which the position of women—not only in the cinema but in society in general—had been pushed back to quasimedieval conditions under the right-wing dictatorship of Franco and his strongest ally, the Roman Catholic church.
   The moral repression of Miro's generation and the stiff censorship rules of the regime led several filmmakers in the mid 1970s—including Miró herself, Josefina Molina and Vicente Aranda-to make use of the tradition of gothic horror films as a vehicle for the problematic topic of sexuality. In Miro's films, images of sexuality are often intertwined with transgression, sadism and an awareness of sin. Her first film, La petición (The Engagement Party) (1976), shows a heroine (played by Ana Belén), sexually active and drawn to sadism. However, we can detect here a difference from other productions of the genre, in that the heroine is not a passive victim but an agent: her sexual passion kills her first lover and after the next has helped her dispose of the body, she despatches him with an oar. In her second film, the El crimen de Cuenca (The Cuenca Crime) (1979), the sadistic characters are men. It is based on an actual event at the turn of the century, when, following a suspected murder, the two accused were brutally tortured by corrupt members of the Civil Guard in order to extract a confession. The film consequently became the subject of the last act of political censorship in Spain, generating media attention and popular debate, which distracted audiences from the undisputable merit of the film.
   Like many of her contemporaries, Miró was also drawn to literary adaptations, while consciously rejecting popular genres. La petición itself was an adaptation from Zola. In 1986 she filmed her personal version of Goethe's Werther and, in 1991, the award-winning thriller Beltenebros from the novel by Vicente Muñoz Molina. The book, a thriller in which an undercover communist agent (played in the film by Terence Stamp) investigates the death of several members of the party's Spanish underground branch in the early dictatorship years, is intrinsically cinematic. Miró simply used the conventions of film noir, and hence the film is problematic in its treatment of women, who are portrayed as sirens casting a shadow of moral ambiguity. It is nevertheless true that, through the use of those very rules, the film succeeded in recreating the dark years of repression and mystery.
   Her Gay Cooper que estás en las cielos (Gary Cooper Who Art in Heaven) (1980) and El pájaro de la felicidad (The Bird of Happiness) (1993) focus on the struggle of women artists. In both cases Miró concentrates on a professional woman's moment of awareness of her fragile world as a note of defeat pervades an otherwise successful life. In the former, the heroine discovers that she has a serious illness and is thrown into an assessment of her life, and in the latter it is an assault and attempted rape which prompts the heroine to embark on a journey of self-discovery. There are moments of lyricism in Miro's films (El pájaro is a remarkable example), where it is the treatment of landscape, rather than the script, which illustrates a character's alienation. Her style is more reliant on European art cinema traditions (like many of her contemporaries she aims to direct films of arte y ensayo) than on Hollywood, which she, like other directors of her generation, often associates with mere populism and commercialism.
   Miró"s high standards of professionalism were also reflected in her work for television. Her last major project was the live coverage of the wedding of Princess Cristina in Barcelona, two weeks before her sudden death from a heart attack.
   Further reading
   - García de León, M.A. (1994) Elites discriminadas (Sobre el poder de las mujeres), Barcelona: Ántropos (analysis of the sociological relevance of Miró from the perspective of a Spanish pioneer in women studies).
   - Hopewell, J. (1986) Out of the Past: Spanish Cinema after Franco, London: British Film Institute, pp. 112–4.
   - Pérez Millán, J.A. (1992) Pilar Miró: Directora de cine, Valladolid: Semana de Cine de Valladolid (renowned Spanish critic's biased, though informed, account of the director's life and work).
   - Schwartz R. (1986) "Pilar Miró" in Spanish Film Directors (1950-1985) Twenty-one Profiles, Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press (slightly dated but one of the early studies on the director).

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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