Spain has given the world many wonderful things, among them Serrano ham, cañitas (the Spanish are the only people on Earth who know how to serve beer, in an ice-cold small glass), some soccer teams (I won't get into which), churros, paella, Picasso, tapas, Javier Bardem, Gaudí, etc.
But none is greater than the wonderful Chus Lampreave, a character actress and national treasure who appeared in many Spanish films, most notably Pedro Almodovar's, and who died recently at the age of 85.
Chus always looked like a little old lady and, for the most part, she played the part of the mom or the grandma: the traditional Spanish señora; in her incarnation, a folsky, no-nonsense everywoman. Almodovar gave her the most hilarious lines, and I can't imagine anyone delivering them better.
Her trademark is a mix of the oblivious and the stubbornly commonsensical. She has no malice but she is never a pushover. It helps that she really looks like a sweet little old lady but then it turns out that she is very much in a league of her own, traditional but unsentimental, and completely true to herself. She has an unshakable, principled internal compass that makes complete sense, if mostly only to her.
There is a wonderful scene in What Have I Done to Deserve This where she is helping her grandson with his homework to identify who of the 19th-century authors on the kid's list is a romantic and who is a realist. She proceeds to tell him all the wrong answers, with the absolute conviction that she can just make shit up and no one will notice. At no point does she waver or give any inclination that she is winging it. She closes with a confident "See how easy it is?" Genius.
Her comic timing was more than impeccable. Sad for her loss, I turned to You Tube for clips of her performances. I think part of her hilarity comes from her uncanny ability to turn on a dime and completely change her mood without missing a beat in a sentence, let alone in a scene. She goes from 0 to 60 in a nanosecond.
In The Flower Of My Secret, she fights with one of her daughters (Rossy De Palma, whom she hates) and then she turns to the other daughter (Marisa Paredes, whom she loves) and in the same breath talks to her with the utmost tenderness. This being Almodovar, they are having an argument about skinheads.
Chus: "I don't know what I did to the skinheads, you should see how they look at me".
She was a natural because she never intended to be an actress. Yet she was one of the most memorable comedic character actors in film.
I always thought that she deserved a monument, a fountain in the middle of Madrid, her effigy in a postage stamp, a resplendent statue. She was adored and she will be missed.