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The Blue Lobster, the Short Film by Gabriel García Márquez


Before opting for literature, the Colombian Nobel prizewinner thought about filmmaking. The fruit of that is this short film.

In 1961, Gabriel García Márquez traveled to Mexico “with $20 in my pocket, my woman, my son and a firm idea in my head: to make movies.”

A few years earlier, in 1955, García Márquez had traveled to Rome to study at the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia. There he would make friends with Argentine filmmaker Fernando Birri and Cuban Julio García Espinosa, both major figures in New Latin American Cinema in the 1960s. But even more important for his career was his friendship with Cesare Zavattini, who, he would later recall, “was like a machine for inventing plots.”

Cinema was fundamental in the shaping of García Márquez as a writer. Even before his stint at the film school in Rome, the writer of One Hundred Years of Solitude was a film critic, firstly at the Universal newspaper in Cartagena de Indias and later for dailies such as El Heraldo in Barranquilla (under the pseudonym “Septimus”) and El Espectador in Bogotá.

His fierce determination to make films upon his arrival in Mexico was partly fulfilled by writing scripts. The adaptation of El gallo de oro, based on a text by Juan Rulfo, together with Carlos Fuentes and Roberto Gavaldón, was one of his first. Gabo worked on a total of 51 scripts, among which were adaptations of his own stories.

Scriptwriting differs in essence from literature in its need to be a simple link in the chain that connects to the images; the film script, unlike what it may seem, is not literature. Its function is to serve as the ephemeral skeleton of the visual creation, the real product of cinema, and any excess literature in a script leads to a blocking up of the visual narrative. García Marquez, the signature novelist, was not, however, an outstanding scriptwriter.

There was only one occasion on which he consolidated his latent passion for cinema. While writing as a film critic, he made, together with Enrique Arau, Alvaro Cepeda Samudio and Luis Vicens, what would be his only movie: The Blue Lobster, a 29-minute Buñuelesque short film.

Impossible to show for many years due to its poor state of conservation, the film came to be considered simply a legend by many fans. But its opportune restoration in the 1990s has allowed it to be discovered by a new generation.

The Blue Lobster is an experimental film, with the main plot giving way to different tangents. A man arrives in a poor fishing town to investigate a mysterious animal, a tasteless blue lobster whose uses are “under investigation.” After the robbery of one of the specimens by a cat, the detective roams around town and witnesses diverse scenes. The search for the lobster becomes an anthropological excursion in which the protagonist observes the daily goings on of the townsfolk. The lobster, this strange leitmotif, serves as the connection during the at times dream-like odyssey.

Considered a key film of Latin American experimental cinema, The Blue Lobster is the cinematographic testimony of an unfulfilled filmmaker called to become a giant of literature.

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