Raúl Arévalo (Madrid, 1979) has just premiered in Polo Menárguez’s directorial debut “El plan”. On top of that he’s rehearsing a play in Madrid with Miki Esparbé and Irene Arcos, (“Traición” (Betrayal)), stars in a series about police riot squads pending release and has another film in the pipeline. We met up with the actor/director who’s aware of his privileged position in the audiovisual industry. Because he’s earned it. And because, as they say, he’s got a good head on his shoulders…
In “El Plan”, in which Polo Menárguez deals with the difficulties of finding a decent job and with friendships, there’s one recurring theme; sexism.
Yes, that dark side of masculinity. Something that was already criticized in Ignasi Vidal’s play which it’s based on; those everyday micro-aggressions we take for granted, that we let slide, that we question. Is this because they’re micro? To change society, we have to look at the small details, to examine those bad habits we’ve inherited through our education.
In the movie, where you share the spotlight with Antonio de la Torre and Chema del Barco, there’s no shortage of humor. Do you still consider comedy an efficient vehicle for dealing with complex issues on the big screen?
“El plan” is not merely a straightforward comedy, but it’s true that as a genre, we all like a bit of humor and it’s extremely effective in analyzing complex issues. I’m fascinated by how Berlanga and Rafael Azcona managed to circumvent censorship in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s using comedy to make films that were critical of the regime, such as “Placido” and “The Executioner.” The same format has been repeated in other political circumstances, such as Borja Cobeaga and his “Negotiator”, where he managed to deal with the infamous meetings between the Spanish Socialist party (PSOE) and ETA in 2005 and 2006 by engaging a very particular sense of humor. I rate a sense of humor very highly and I find some scripts are lacking luminosity or humor, and that can be tiresome.
Do you mean arthouse cinema which are perhaps too self-conscious of their social message?
I like them in general, but some follow a pattern that’s far too rigid and preset, and they can be very intense. Bong Joon-ho for example, winner of the Oscar for “Parasites”, is critical of society, but the guy also has a sense of humor.
In “El plan” you work alongside Antonio de la Torre, whom you directed in your directorial debut, “ The Fury of a Patient Man” (2016). If I were to ask you what Antonio is like …
I’d tell you that Antonio is like my older brother and my confidant. We have that vibe that people who know each other really well have, you know, they love each other, then can get angry and constantly tell each other to go get fucked. There isn’t anyone in this profession with whom I share a greater complicity.
Other companions you’ve worked with along the way include Antonio Banderas and Pedro Almodóvar, the former in “Summer Rain” (2006) and the latter in “I’m So Excited!” (2013) and “Pain & Glory” (2019).
They’re two of the people I’ve learned most from. “Summer Rain” was my second film as an actor and Antonio transmitted his passion for his trade in cinema. And Pedro? Now there’s a man who gives lessons in both film and life. He’s seen and read practically everything regarding movies, series and books. The man’s an endless source of wisdom and experience.
Another crack, and one we’ve just recently lost, is José Luis Cuerda, who directed you in “The Blind Sunflowers” (2008).
It was Maribel Verdú who told him I’d be perfect to play the priest in “The Blind Sunflowers.” It was terrific to be part of that story. José Luis was another prolific conversationalist, one of the greats.
You have at least one series, “Antidisturbios” (Movistar +), and a film by Víctor García León, “Los Europeos” pending release.
One of the aspects I most value about “Antidisturbios” which offers a realistic view of the state police riot squads that are so often criticized while being at the same time so misunderstood, is that Rodrigo Sorogoyen is behind the camera, the director of “The Candidate” (2018) and “Madre” (2019), which in itself is a guarantee. I’m also very excited to see ” Los Europeos”, because Victor fought long and hard to make the movie from this adaptation of Rafael Azcona’s novel.
How are things currently looking for Spanish cinema?
Wow, you’ve really saved the heavy hitters for last, haven’t you? I’ll do my best, but where to start? … In a healthy film industry, commercial films, in other words the blockbusters, have to live side by side with the weirdoes. We have producers investing money and business is business. But, what I’m afraid of is that the range of different types of product is getting narrower and narrower all the time, and authors need to be appreciated. Whether you like them or hate them, there will always have to be ones who are different, the free spirits and those who don’t make concessions: the Sorogoyen’s, the Eduardo Casanova’s, the Víctor García León’s… If I had picked good-looking types and instagrammers to star in “The Fury of a Patient Man”, of course I could have shot it in much less time!