Basilio Martín Patino was one of the most original directors in the movement known as New Spanish Cinema.

Of Talent and Obscurity: Fernando Higueras and Martín Patino

Still from “Del amor y otras soledades” (Basilio Martín Patino, 1969)

“Very modern… very nice and very modern!” gushes Alejandro’s boss, while his dolled-up wife turns to María and adds, “And with the sun coming in from all directions! The worst thing must be the distance…”. Alejandro (Carlos Estrada) and María (Lucía Bosé), the couple in Del amor y otras soledades (Martín Patino, 1969)1 have just moved into their new house on the outskirts of Madrid: a house which, as Alejandro admits, “is the work of María and the architect, a close friend of mine” and seems better to reflect his wife’s tastes and aspirations than his own. This idea is reinforced by another good friend of Alejandro’s, who in one scene comments, “What he’s done with you two is experiment for his own benefit… Seeing how you let him! If you ask me, you can’t beat those houses they had in the olden days…”

María comes from a well-off family. She wears Balenciaga clothes and isn’t willing to resign herself to the role of wife and mother, preferring to spend her time creating stained-glass windows and hanging out with artists and intellectuals. Alejandro, however, has had to work very hard to rise to an executive position in his company. He even had to relinquish a post as university professor without being able to attain the chair he so yearned for, and his class resentment prevents him from fully enjoying the middle-class lifestyle he‘s sacrificed so much to achieve.

Floor plan of the Lucio Muñoz House (Fernando Higueras, Torrelodones, 1962-1964)

According to all available documentation, the house film director Martín Patino chose as the setting for this tale of marital and personal crisis was the one  Fernando Higueras built in Torrelodones  in 1964 for painters Lucio Muñoz and Amalia Avia. 0} Muñoz asked Higueras to build him “a house that doesn’t look as if it was made by an architect”, and the result was an organic building closely hugging the contours of a craggy terrain and integrated into its surroundings using “stone taken from a yard on the plot, [and] prefabricated beams and joists of the same colour as the lichens on the site”. Higueras opted for an L-shaped plan with one wing housing the bedrooms and the other containing the social and service zones, plus an annex for the two painters’ studio. In the film, the annex was used by María as a workshop for her stained-glass designs, although Alejandro secretly wanted to put his parents up there.

Del amor y otras soledades was received with harsh criticism, causing Martín Patino to abandon fiction and devote the rest of his life to making documentaries, but the Lucio Muñoz House won the First Prize for Architecture at the National Fine Arts Exhibition, thrusting Higueras into the spotlight. The house was the first in a series of homes the architect built in the area around Madrid in the decades when his work was most prolific and highly acclaimed. After that, he fell into undeserved obscurity.

Floor plan of the Santonja House (Fernando Higueras, in collaboration with Antonio Miró, Somosaguas, 1964-1965)

The compositional strategy Higueras followed in all those homes was based on spatial stratification and formal homogeneity. Perhaps the similarity between the different buildings explains why nobody has ever pointed out that the house where Martin Patino shot most of the indoor scenes was not really the Lucio Muñoz House but the Santonja House, built in Somosaguas two years later.

The reason for the confusion will probably never come to light, and nobody will be interested anyway.  Higueras and Martín Patino were both free-spirited rebels who died without enjoying the attention and recognition their work and talent deserved.

Text translated by Andrew V. Taylor
Notas de página

Basilio Martín Patino was one of the most original directors in the movement known as New Spanish Cinema.

Ester Roldán (1976), arquitecta por la ETSA de Valladolid y DEA por la ETSA de Barcelona. En 2000 funda longo+roldán arquitectos junto a Víctor Longo, con quien desarrolla desde entonces proyectos en los que intenta materializar sus ideas arquitectónicas experimentando en intervenciones que van de la escala urbana a las instalaciones efímeras, y por los que han recibido numerosos premios, apareciendo así mismo publicados en revistas especializadas nacionales e internacionales. No limita sin embargo su trabajo al ámbito de la construcción, y colabora asiduamente como articulista en varios medios, imparte clases y conferencias y participa activamente en todo tipo de propuestas culturales.

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