Ulises Estrella

07. The cinema Gardel sang

ear 1931. While in Quito people was amazed by Enrique Ibañez Mora's calm and touching voice, for the first time synchronized for the movies, on the picture La divina canción; in Paris, Carlos Gardel was facing his most serious film challenge: Luces de Buenos Aires.

The growing number of melody fans and the newly-born movie lovers foresaw a promising future in this fusion of popular music with the show of images. However, the enthusiasm did not last long, because the Ecuadorean cinema had difficulties in strengtening in an autonomous way its talking stage, and, furthermore, a tragic accident early cut off El Zorzal's life (1935), when the movies had scarcely started to appear on the Ecuadorean screens.

Ears, close to the phonograph, accompanied pasillos and tangos. Eyes longed for the gestures, the looks, the appearance. Above all, Gardel's mien: the photogenic face with eyebrows crowded with blackness, his permanent smile, his handkerchief, his polka dotted tie, his striped shirt, the hat tilted towards his forehead.

Not only women, but also men (and with more fruition) kept the heroe's photographs, especially in Quito and Guayaquil, because on his face there was much of the winner, of the «canchero» (quick-witted) required as aspiration of behavior to avoid being swallowed by the miseries and loneliness of daily life in the cities, which abruptly grew by migrations.

The theaters Olmedo in Guayaquil and Edén in Quito, premiere auditoriums of the Paramount company (producer and distributor) which shot nearly all Gardel's movies, were the entrance doors for Melodía de arrabal (1932), Cuesta abajo (1934), El día que me quieras and Tango Bar (1935).

The Gardelian iconography grew, but his intonation grew even more. This quality not only musical, but also psychological and social which made that, with his peculiar way of singing, he created with large human groups a specific tonal atmosphere around himself, not transitory (as with some present leading singers happens) but prolongued, like a halo which goes on surrounding those who hear him and assume his lyrics and emotions.

Alfredo Le Pera, the loyal and permanent friend who accompanied him, creating and encouraging him since the early films, until dying with him «embraced and blazed» in Medellín, told those who thought that to compose for Gardel was easy, that «without thinking in words he used to start humming», but after deeply analyzing, with him, the reasons which drove the action (of the lyrics and of the characters), to later infer the degree of feeling or joy. That was to find the intonation. El Zorzal told the plot of the lyric, then it did not matter that the cameras stood motionless when he sang. And, not even the scripts, most them very anodyne as cinematography.

Gardel, with Le Pera made the tango themes deeper and higher.

He fixed his mien in images, the singer was transferred to the character, thanks to his intonation, it was then a unique cinema because it varied not due to its own instrument, but when sung by Gardel.

«People thought he could do anything» said Julio De Caro. The heroe produced symbiosis and devotion.

At a great distance from him (because he lacked the quality as creator) the only Ecuadorean singer who came closer, as far as intonation is concerned, was Julio Jaramillo.

He closed his eyes, and tango, and cinema, went on.

There came storms, genocides, exiles and in-exiles. «Los de la mesa de los sueños» (those at the table of dreams)(Sur: Solanas) go on surrendering their passion to tango and keeping the illusion of a decent and happy country. Roberto Goyeneche finds the new intonation and Julio Mafud keeps on reminding us that Gardel «represented a people who wanted to be. A people who still struggles to be». A people to whom all Latin Americans belong.

Essay writer, poet and film maker, he was born in Quito in 1939. Among his poetic work his books Ombligo del mundo, Convulsionario, Fuera de juego, Furtivos poemas furtivos and Cuando el sol se mira de frente stand out. With his Fuera de juego he got, in 1983, the Jorge Carrera Andrade award from the Municipalidad de Quito. He is besides journalist and cinema critic in the newspaper Hoy and presently holds the office of director of the Cinemateca Nacional of the Casa de la Cultura Ecuatoriana.