Dame Wendy Hiller, when told that she won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for “Separate Tables,” reportedly responded to the news by snapping, “For what – the back of my head?” Dame Wendy was referring to the fact her “Separate Tables” character spent much of the film with her back to the camera while listening to what the other characters had to say.
But, sometimes, an actor’s true charisma or the greatness of a scene does not require full-frontal visibility. Spanish director Alberto Cabrera Bernal realized this when he created this fascinating experimental short that consists entirely of scenes from famous films where the actors have their backs to the camera.
Part of the fun in “Contra el cine” is trying to identify which films are used – a lot of the films come from art house fare of the 1950s and 1960s, which will really challenge the rabid cinephile. Perhaps the most notable rear view on display belongs to Ingrid Bergman in “Spellbound,” who famously exits a scene while a revolver is pointed at her – the revolver is turned to the camera when Bergman exits and is discharged directly into the camera.
One quibble might be the absence of two of the most striking back-to-camera exits in film history: Charlie Chaplin and Paulette Goddard walking away on a long road at the end of “Modern Times” and John Wayne’s solitary trek to the horizon in the closing shot of “The Searchers.” But, hey, there’s just so much that one can cram into an eight-minute film.