Paco Caballero (Madrid, 1980) a man in love with comedy, a devotee of humor as a tool often capable of voicing more serious and transcendent issues, a trait he demonstrates once more in the recently released “Donde caben dos”, where he focuses the action in Club Paradiso, a swingers club and venue frequented by countless curious and horny characters in search of unknown pleasure, paradigmatic change, repressed fantasy, erotic freedom and absolute risk. Sexual risk, but also in love. We spoke to the director about this no-nonsense (or is it?) story, starring some of Spain’s best comedy talents.
“Donde caben dos” talks about sex, a lot of sex, but does it really talk about love?
Well, there’s a lot of love, and it deals with how difficult it is to separate sex from love, if it’s possible to separate one from the other, of course. So, wrapped up inside all this, the movie progresses from pure sex to romantic comedy.
In other words, the script you’ve co-written with Eric Navarro, Edu Sola and Daniel González is meaty, and not just physical. There’s also plenty of food for thought and reflection for the audience watching in their seats. Could we say that it’s a racy movie, without being vulgar?
Yes, yes, that, racy but not vulgar. I’d like audiences who watch the film as a couple, to glance sideways at one another and say: “This … you and me, what do you reckon? Would you like to go to a club like Ana Milán and Carlos Cuevas in the movie? And open our relationship?” It’s a film that invites audiences to reflect from a mischievousness perspective. Would you dare experiment? Although, at first, you’ll be crapping yourself with fear.
I really like the voiceover and the message. It’s like Shakespeare: try things, be happy, even fall in love.
I love the reference, because it gives me an intellectual halo, (laughs). The message is to party. Let everyone do what they want with their bodies and have sex with whoever they want. Let everyone laugh, as much as they can. And let the Sexual Revolution become a reality. But always with care. Let’s not forget that we are still living with COVID.
Once, director Bigas Luna (“Bilbao”, “The Ages of Lulu”, “Jamon, Jamon”) told me that he didn’t like people telling him that they’d masturbated after seeing one of his films. If this same thing happens to someone, after seeing “Donde caben dos”, and they tell you about it, what will your reaction be?
If anyone wants to play with themselves with my movie, go ahead! If the plot motivates you to do that, why not? Everything that can be generated is a compliment. It’s better to unleash what’s inside rather than keeping it to yourself.
What’s it like directing top-notch comedy actors like the ones you have here? For example, isn’t it a bit embarrassing for you to be ordering María León around, telling her what to do?
I’m a scoundrel! So in general. I put a lot of neck into everything. I’m passionate about comedy. The mathematics of comedy, with its twists that get you thinking. In “Donde caben dos”, we had only one goal: to hit the right tone. Luckily, all the actors and actresses came to the project quite naked, and I mean in the spiritual sense of the word, and they told me: “Do what you want with us.” Either way, I also gave them complete freedom to let the comedy emerge in an organic way.
Let’s talk about the cast. The film features the whirlwind Aixa Villagrán, whom we recently saw in Leticia Dolera’s series “Perfect Life” (Movistar +). I always wondered where she’d been hiding until now. She’s an extraordinary comedian.
I don’t know where they had her hidden. I don’t know if Aixa has always been this type of actress, or maybe she now feels completely at home in this role. She loves comedy, being a clown, and she does it all so naturally. She has this oddity that makes you laugh. Every time she opens her mouth, the audience laughs. Everyone connects with her.
You filmed during the pandemic. Dealing with the subject the film deals with and with so many actors on the set… maximum precaution, right?
Maximum precaution, yes. On set, there were just as many thongs as there were PCR’s. Although the characters had to constantly touch and kiss, we had no issues around COVID. And there was a really festive atmosphere on set. On top of that, we filmed in the best bar in Barcelona at the time, this Club Paradiso we created for the movie.
One of the most extraordinary fragments: the couple Álvaro Cervantes and Ricardo Gómez. Here you allow yourself the luxury of introducing suspense, mystery and intrigue, and slowing down the pace: there’s no rush, and whatever has to happen will happen even if it takes a long time.
Álvaro and Ricardo’s was a very complicated story on paper. It could have ended up turning out really dark, but it hasn’t. It’s the most typical piece of romantic comedy. Credit goes to both of them. They had great chemistry on screen. They talk and talk, and when they touch, they really touch, and they raise the tension of the situation. They’re amazing, charming, and all that without hardly moving from that hallway and that hole in the wall.
Let’s swap partners for a minute. Miki Esparbé and Anna Castillo. What a luxury, pairing them off together to be cousins.
Miki is a luxury unto himself. I’ve been working with him for years, but this was my first time working with Anna. We’d meeting up in different places, off set, and she asked me to call her for my next project. The moment came, and she asked, “What’s the movie about?” And I replied: “It’s about a swingers club, and you’d have Miki Esparbé as a cast partner.” Anna’s response: “Well I’m in”. Another delight, Anna.
The story of swinging is reminiscent of “The People Upstairs” (2020), by Cesc Gay. The characters of Luis Callejo, Pilar Castro, Ernesto Alterio and María Morales seem to be neighbors of those in Gay’s film. Or maybe they are the same characters from “The People Upstairs”, only a few months on.
I like to think that there’s some of that, even in the appearance of his house. Are these four neighbors of Javier Cámara, Belén Cuesta, Alberto San Juan and Griselda Siciliani? Hmmm…
In the storyline featuring Raúl Arévalo, Verónica Echegui, Jorge Suquet and Melina Matthews you’ve brought together four very different actors. And it really works well.
Yes, because they’re all friends and they came with this prior confidence, all eager to work. Also, what I mentioned earlier. They immediately understood the tone. They’re not just detached, but much more than that. And it didn’t matter that they all spoke at the same time and that they cut across each other’s dialogues.
And what about the playlist? You blend Bambino with Suu, Rebe, La Habitación Roja, Tesa & La Prima, La Casa Azul and Novedades Carminha, with spectacular results. The soundtrack is completely integrated with the images and the situations.
I’m a real music buff. Music elevates the movie. I wanted songs in Spanish, music that was current and would accompany the characters. We worked on that for ages with the editor. All the music we hear brings us to Casa Azul’s “La Revolución Sexual” at the end. Some of the artists are not that well known, like Rebe, but you have to acknowledge that his “Tócame el culo” is a great tune.
You premiered “Donde caben dos” shortly after Fernando Colomo released “Polyamory for Dummies”. Same time and, more or less, the same theme. Or at least a theme similar to yours. Although Colomo has been talking about sex, swinging, and changing our sentimental and love habits since the 70’s and 80’s.
Yes, and, in fact, I began making movies, fascinated by Colomo’s 90’s films. I haven’t seen “Polyamory for Dummies” yet, but I think it touches on what I’m talking about from another perspective, in a different way. It’s one I have pending. Fernando will always be very modern. When everyone else wouldn’t dare to say certain things in Spanish cinema, he was already there, naturalizing everything.
You specialize in comedies. You’ve shot series like “Bienvenidos a la familia” and “Citas”, for TV3, or “The Neighbor”, on Netflix. And movies like “Off Course to China” (2019). And soon you’ll be releasing “Mother’s Love” on Netflix with Carmen Machi and Quim Gutiérrez. Would you direct a drama?
I’d direct anything that moves me inside. Even a horror movie, as long as it can contribute something to the genre. I’m co-writer of my film and television work, and I like to bring my experiences to bear. I’m thrilled to be doing comedies, but I’m open to anything. So, how about a horror comedy?
Let’s go back to your childhood, long before you studied cinema and settled in Barcelona. Were you the class clown?
I think so. Well, at times. Above all, I was the class moderator, that kid who was somewhere in between the ‘losers’ and the most popular kids in school. I was in the middle.
Poll question: Billy Wilder or Éric Rohmer?
Wilder. Wilder every time. You’ve just touched on my God! He did everything so well, like Lubitsch. If only I looked like the two of them. I consider Luis Callejo our Jack Lemmon. I do like French comedies, yes, but more commercial ones than Rohmer did. I take my hat off to them.
Every time. I’ll tell you an anecdote. We were looking for a name for my high school in Coslada, and I was in favor of its being called Miguel Induráin. Luis García Berlanga? No way! So, in order for the students to understand who Berlanga was, they organized a showing of “Welcome, Mister Marshall” (1953) in class, but that day I was mitching. So, the day arrives to unveil the plaque with Berlanga’s name on it and, in the meantime, I’m sitting in the high school cafeteria eating a sandwich. Just then, a man with a white beard comes up to me and asks: “Why aren’t you in class?” And I reply, “Well, because I am against the High School being called Luis García Berlanga. They’ve tricked us. Nobody knows Berlanga”. Well, that man was Berlanga! What a bastard! After a while, I saw “The Executioner” (1963), and from that point onwards I became an absolute fan of Berlanga. Now, I’d love to shoot that fourth part of his “Nacional” saga for which they’ve only recently discovered the script. How things have changed…
You’ve also made several very successful short films, but one of them has travelled the world, or almost: “What Is Love” (2019). What’s the secret to its magic? In addition, taking into account that shorts have limited visibility and presence in the media and festivals.
I don’t know. When I write something, I’m never in possession of the magic recipe for success. I try to stay awake and do something that connects with the public, and that’s it. What happens after that… One of the keys to its excellent reception is the acting duo comprising Verónica Echegui and Miki Esparbé. Miki is my alter ego, tall and handsome. “What Is Love” is a short that touches on very common themes, and perhaps that also contributed to its success.
Another of your favorite stars, Betsy Túrnez, is not, however, in the very long cast of “Donde caben dos.” What happened there?
Ah, you can’t have everything in life! I hope she’s in my upcoming projects. Betsy is one of the best actresses on the scene today. She’s wonderful, incredibly endearing. A girl with immense talent.
Ok, to wrap up, how would you define yourself as a filmmaker?
I am cinema’s version of The Wolf: a problem solver, who is everywhere. I’m a very amiable guy who, on set, wants to be close to the crew, the actors and even the extras, to the amazement of the extras themselves. Some of them have asked me: “But aren’t you the director? What are you doing here with us? Also, after filming is over, I like to thank everyone. As a creator, I’m a man who explains things in a way that people can understand, nothing weird. And as such, I can empathize with them.