Close Up

26 November 2019 - 15 February 2020: A Worm’s Tail View Is Often the True One: Films by Pere Portabella

Image credit: Pere Portabella © Pere Portabella & Films 59

"Portabella is a very intelligent man and a wonderful film director." – Christopher Lee

"Pere Portabella made his first film in Barcelona in 1967, a time marked by intense repression in Francoist Spain and a worldwide proliferation of cinematic new waves that were challenging the parameters of filmic language. The eight features and countless shorts he brought to fruition in the subsequent half century would seem to thwart the typical auteurist search for unity in which the critic catalogues repeated motifs and notes trademark gestures recurring across a body of work. One can’t simply periodise his films, either. It is tempting to divide up the various productions and say that there are two Portabellas: At times, the Catalan director seems an heir to the Surrealism of Luis Buñuel, at work in an art-cinema idiom of dark, irreverent humour and social critique; at others, his name could be fairly uttered in the same breath as that of Fernando Solanas and Octavio Getino, advocates of Third Cinema, a partisan form of documentary filmmaking in the service of revolutionary political change. But we must ultimately insist that there is only one Portabella, a filmmaker who has consistently engaged multiple strategies to forge a cinematic language of contestation, first in opposition to the dictatorship of Francisco Franco and later in response to the no-alter- native capitalism of neoliberal Europe. His is a radical cinema that emerged – and has evolved – in response to political emergency." – Erika Balsom

""Worm’s tail" (or "cua de cuc" as it is written in Portabella’s native Catalan) refers to the unexposed end of a reel of film – the unseen element. It refers also to the farthest anatomical point from the creature’s eye; the eye from which an object appears strong and mighty, from film’s device to the viewer’s detriment. From the sacrificial butler and his keen philosophy, agog and dying loyally at the side of the private eye of film’s black myth, our title is a readymade and a rhyme (misheard). A language of the margin, a cinema demanding a proper world (truth). We adopt the view of the worm’s tail. The strength or mightiness of the eye’s perspective as generally prescribed is undermined as the worm consumes the waste items of its structure (temporary – as all structures are). It eats the raw dirt of the culture, and from its tail casts pass to establish fresh grounds for all of us. The gift of this bottom vessel, the martyring worm of Portabella’s oeuvre, is to see left, right, up and down; to see to the detriment of the megadome; to demand the value of misheard rhymes, and to quote Portabella on his primary impulse to film: "to take a new critical look at reality... to intervene in a hostile, mediocre, grey and repressive environment..."

...and so it was and so it is. The term "retrospective" feels quite wrong considering Portabella’s ongoing practice (preferring the "Introspective" Gee Vaucher recently gave an exhibition of her work), but for legibility and reach, forgive our better judgement: this is the most complete "retrospective" of Pere Portabella’s work to date including many national and some worldwide premieres. The programme has been independently curated and produced to mark 92 years (google says 90 – it is wrong) of life, and 60 years of his production company, Films 59. Special thanks to Institut Ramon Llull, co-producers without whose support this programme would not have been possible, and to Adrián Onco, always behind the chair and always ahead of the curve." –  Winstanley Schtinter

The most ambitious, creative and complete retrospective of works by "the most important living director you’ve never heard of" – Pere Portabella – will tour London’s most engaged cultural institutions from November 2019 until February 2020.

Organised by Winstanley Schtinter. With exclusive participation from Albert Serra, Ben Rivers, Colm Tóibín, Jonathan Rosenbaum, Irene Solà, and many more.

Vampir-Cuadecuc (purrrrrj002)

The original soundtrack score to the film of the same name by Carles Santos, released by the "anti-record label (anti-everything)", on the occasion of Portabella’s London retrospective. Handmade and numbered in an edition of 130 copies on 180g vinyl with original liner notes by Jonathan Rosenbaum. Limited copies available exclusively at Low Company; all events or direct via

Close-Up Programme

Don’t Count On Your Fingers
Pere Portabella, 1967, 28 min
Spanish with English subtitles

Pont De Varsòvia
Pere Portabella, 1989, 84 min
Spanish & Catalan with English subtitles

Plan Hidrológico Nacional
Pere Portabella, 2004, 3 min

Poetes Catalans
Pere Portabella, 1970, 26 min
Catalan with English subtitles
Introduced by Irene Solà

Die Stille Vor Bach
Pere Portabella, 2007, 100 min
Introduced by Irene Solà

Informe General
Pere Portabella, 1976, 154 min
Spanish, Catalan & Basque with English subtitles
Introduced by Mark Nash

Informe General II
Pere Portabella, 2015, 126 min
Catalan, English, Italian & Spanish with English subtitles
Introduced by Ingrid Guardiola

Pere Portabella Short Films 
1969-2003, 108 min

Nocturno 29
Pere Portabella, 1968, 86 min
Spanish with English subtitles

Carles Santos Short Films 
1967-69, 90 min
With Tom Wheatley

Pere Portabella, 1972, 85 min
Spanish with English subtitles

Los Golfos
Carlos Saura, 1960, 88 min
Spanish with English subtitles

El Cochecito
Marco Ferreri, 1960, 85 min
Spanish with English subtitles

Tren de Sombras
Jose Luis Guerin, 1997, 88 min

Luis Buñuel, 1961 90 min
Spanish with English subtitles

In the Same Boat
Rudy Gnutti, 2016, 72 min

Jose Antonio Maenza, 1969/2020, 105 min, Silent

ICA: Vampir Cuadecuc & Nocturno 29

Vampir-Cuadecuc + Acció Santos
Launch Event with Albert Serra & Ben Rivers

Nocturno 29
With Ona Balló Pedragosa & Lucia Bosé

Whitechapel Gallery: Umbracle & Four films with Joan Miró

UmbraclePremios Nacionales Play Back
With Erika Balsom & Gareth Evans

Miro L’Altre, Miro la Forja, Miro Tapiz, Aidez L’Espagne + Mudanza
With Colm Tóibín & Marcelo Expósito

Brixton Prison: El Sopar

An extraordinary opportunity to see Pere Portabella's El Sopar – a portrait of former political prisoners – at Brixton Prison. Strictly limited to just 30 people. Ticket price includes a buffet dinner prepared by prisoners who are trained by the Clink charity in preparation for leaving prison. Advance bookings are crucial with attendees required to submit their information for clearance into the prison two weeks prior to the event. Hosted by Schtinter with an introduction by Pere Portabella.

Cafe Oto: Acció Santos - The works of Carles Santos

Screening of Pisca el piano & La Tempesta, with performance by "Acció Santos" Carles Santos tribute act featuring Barcelona ’92 Olympian Derek Redmond, Daniel Blumberg, Winstanley Schtinter, Billy Steiger, Tom Wheatley + more

BFI: Vampir-Cuadecuc

With William Fowler & Tanoa Sasraku-Ansah

University of Cambridge: Talks

With Pere Portabella, Brad Epps, Rosalind Galt, Steven Marsh, Esteve Riambau, Jonathan Rosenbaum and more T.B.C.

The Liberated Film Club was established to champion lost / suppressed / impossible film, regularly extracting from an expansive archive titles to present to an audience blind, by a presenter… blind. According to an ever adjustable format, neither the audience nor the special guest invited to introduce the film playing at any given event have any idea what they will see. Collisions unexpected and rehabilitating are always made. This chance encounter and suspension of time in a time of little chance and delegated engagement (no time!) has meant a lot to a few. And Pere Portabella has meant a lot to the Liberated Film Club. In a break from unusual programming, this is a celebration of Portabella, an indictment of the institution, and a belief in the visionary potential of the audience. Everything is still permitted.

Programme supported by:


More info:

BOX OFFICE (12:00 - 23.30): 02037847970 - All films are ad-free and 18+ unless otherwise stated.