The Films of Armando Bó

In the first of our 'Memorable Film' series on Latin America and Spain’s most memorable films and directors, Latinolife’s film editor, Corina Poore, profiles the ground-breaking Argentine director Armando Bó
by: 
Corina J Poore

Many films are said to be ‘Classics’…Citizen Cane…Casablanca…Metropolis, to name a few. What defines a classic? Films that can be seen many times over and yet survive the test of time. They transcend their era and their genre.

We could ask; what makes a masterpiece? Is it because a great work, be it film, poetry, literature, music or painting, lifts us above the mundane, alters our perspective on life in some way, so that we are never quite the same again after the experience?  

It has been said that art is non-religious spirituality. We can see many works that leave us cold, however entertaining. Others stay with you, lingering on in your dreams and memories, defying you to forget their message or their imagery. Now and again, one piece of art will change your life forever, you’ll never see the world in the same way againt. It affects not only you, the spectator, but also the art form, exerting an influence over the direction it will take in the future.

Films bring humanity onto our screens, stories of life, love and death, real feelings and experiences. Even fantasy or science fiction films will only work if the emotions feel authentic. No amount of special effects on their own can make a good story.  

Too many Spanish and Latin American films and film directors have been unsung and not properly appreciated internationally for the effect they have had.

One such director was Argentine Armando Bó, (1914-1981) with his 27 ‘erotic’ films, all starring his muse Isabel Sarli.  Argentina had a sophisticated film industry 30 and 40s, that was still surviving, though not quite as successfully in the mid-20th Century, when Bó began to gain notoriety.   

Armando Bó with Isable Sarli

Apart from being an actor himself, he was also a producer, screenwriter and director, (even doing some score composition). Having started out working with the respected director Leopoldo Torres Rios, making films about football, it was quite a leap when he started to work with La (Coca) Isabel Sarli, his actress and muse making his characteristic intensely erotic films. 

Armando Bó’s films are different in that he allowed his muse to take her sexual powers into her own hands. He also filmed the first ever nude scene in an Argentine film El Trueno entre las Hojas,1957, (Thunder in the leaves) which caused more than a stir. Today the films don’t come across as shocking, but at that time, the subject matter revolutionized the attitude towards women in film.  

Though these films are imbued with sexually suggestive content, that could be considered kitch, they are not explicit as such, and have been cited as an influence by a number of renowned film makers, including Russ Meyer and John Waters. Indeed, Waters listed Fuego among his top ten favourite films in his programme “John Waters presents”, as well as in the 2002 Maryland Film Festival. These films, are compulsive viewing though, and fortunately some are available to view today.

Beautifully restored, the film Fuego (1969) was recently screened at the Barbican in London in October 2016.   This film was a milestone; as it was probably one of the first films that allowed the woman to express her own sexual desires rather than always be the object of desire herself.  It has been said the first film that changed this view was Roger Vadim’s “And God created Woman” with Brigitte Bardot, but Bó encapsulates the woman’s desires and power far more effectively.

Armando Bó can also be credited with starting a small film dynasty with his son being the actor Victor Bó and his grandson, the screenwriter Armando Bó, known for his work as producer and screenwriter with Alejandro González Iñárritu on Birdman.   

Some of Fernando Bó’s films are available to buy from Amazon.co.uk at exorbitant prices, there are a far more extensive selection at reasonable prices on Amazon.com in dollars, which could attract some import duty. Fortunately, some can be viewed on YouTube, and on various fee paying  websites.  

Carne  (1968)

The beautiful Delicia works in an abbatoir. Her boyfriend ignores the fact that a labourer rapes her every day then one day she is kidnapped.

Director: Armando Bo

Writer: Armando Bó

Stars: Isabel Sarli, Victor Bo, Romualdo Quiroga 

 

 

Fuego  (1969)     

A nymphomaniac suffers as she is unable to get satisfaction from any man or woman.

Director: Armando Bó

Writer: Armando Bó

Stars: Isabel Sarli, Armando Bó, Alba Múgica.

 

 

El Trueno entre las Hojas )1957)  -(no subtitles)

The arrival of the young wife of the boss, where the workers are exploited inhumanely,  shakes opens up their years of frustrations in this social drama.

Director: Armando Bó

Writer: Armando Bó

Stars: Isabel Sarli, Armando Bo, Andres Lazio