Something Good #73: 49 Hours in Madrid
You have been invited to Madrid to present your film at a festival. You will be there for a mere two days.
Here is what happens.
Your plane lands at 8am. You have slept barely three hours on the flight. You go straight to the hotel, where you are told you will not have access to your room until the afternoon.
You decide to go to the Prado Museum, just blocks away, and see some of your favourite works of art through bleary, jet-lagged eyes.
On your way there, you encounter an image that will pursue you relentlessly for the next two days. You will see cursed images of the Brutal Bacon again and again, on bus stops and hanging in Burger King windows. You do not like it at all.
There are haunting images everywhere you look. Inside the Prado, you are confronted by dozens of paintings of inbred Habsburgs, their recurring, jutting jawlines impossible to ignore. Eventually a guard tells you to stop photographing them.
You learn to hide your camera under your jacket. You marvel at how little has surpassed Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights in its fervent, unabashed weirdness since it was painted some 600 years ago. No other work of art really comes close. The fact that we know so little about Hiëronymus Bosch’s life, his career, or generally just what his whole deal was, only adds to the mystery.
Standing before Goya’s Saturn Devouring His Son, you can’t help but think of the Brutal Bacon again. Is this what it would feel like to eat that terrible burger? You vow to never find out.
There’s also something you notice about the painting for the first time. You struggle to express what, until, a couple of days later, your friend Kevin puts their finger on it:
He is literally a snack.
You are surprised to learn that the Prado has its own Mona Lisa, an early version attributed to da Vinci’s workshop, and that you prefer it to the one in the Louvre? It’s a much more stylish portrait. You admire the red sleeves.
You people-watch for a bit, seeing echoes of the Mona Lisa’s outfit everywhere.
Back at the hotel, you discover that the queer film festival has ironically misinterpreted yourself and Sarah as a heterosexual couple and booked you a single, tiny room, with a glass-walled bathroom that would test even the most legitimate of relationships.
Hopes for a pre-screening nap dashed, you go for a walk so your co-director can take a shower.
You see ads everywhere for a musical stage version of The Neverending Story, your lifelong favourite book, and are tempted to go see it, but the timing doesn’t work out. Instead, you eat a calamari sandwich in Plaza Mayor, sheltering in the arcade while it rains.
That night, the screening goes wonderfully. It is sold out and the audience is full of lovely, enthusiastic people.
While the movie plays, you go for dinner with your festival hosts and eat what is the first of what will eventually add up to a truly startling quantity of jamón ibérico.
This ancient preparation (dating back at least as far as the Roman Empire) is truly magical, involving the finest of ingredients: free-range swine, forest-foraged acorns, and most importantly, time itself, for the two-to-four-year curing process. The result is intoxicating, and you marvel that this high-water mark of human culinary ingenuity can be found on the same streets as the hated Brutal Bacon.
The Q&A, or coloquio as it is referred to much more gracefully in Spanish, lasts until the cinema staff kick everybody out.
You get back to the hotel, the room issue seemingly solved, and sleep for 10 hours.
The next day you go to the Mercado de San Miguel, a covered market full of food stalls, and eat more jamón, and olives, and cheese. It does not get better than this.
You go for dinner at one of those amazing European cultural centres that house a cinema, an art gallery, a bookstore, a disco, and the greatest restaurant you’ve ever eaten at under one roof, usually some sort of big converted boat or dairy or something—in this case, an old slaughterhouse complex.
You go to bed, sleep for two hours, and get back on a plane.
If you live in Montreal, this is your last chance to get tickets to our hometown premiere screening of You Can Live Forever. This week we are also playing in Melbourne, twice, and in Quezon City, the Philippines.
In my darkest moments, I do wonder if the exalted, poetic tradition of jamón ibérico is just as brutal as the process that gives us the bacon burger, and if Burger King is just more honest about it. Slaughter is slaughter, right, even if you are full up on acorns? I don’t know. I need to think about this.
Every once in a while—sometimes weekly, sometimes monthly—I will send you Something Good. This week’s contained too many images for many of our regular “front of book” type features, but they will be back soon, as will be some sort of year-end recommendations post I’m working on. Feel free to find me in the chat, which is still mostly populated by my parents. And if you do not currently subscribe, you may do so… here: