Sunday, December 9, 2012

SCN: Paula Ortiz's CHRYSALIS--three women in three periods of Spanish history

A most intriguing exercise in connections -- social, political, economic and especially amorous and by extension, I think, feminist -- CHRYSALIS, the first full-length film from writer/director Paula Ortiz keeps us alert and concerned thanks to some excellent performances and stunning cinematography (the latter is via Miguel Ángel Amoedo, of Fermat's Room and a lot of Spanish TV), the former from the actresses who play the three women:   SCN regular Maribel Verdú (below), Leticia Dolera (further below and recently seen as the bride in [REC] 3!) and Luisa Gavasa (shown in the penultimate photo and new to me, as she's done mostly Spanish TV).

Other than via theme(s), there is no connection between these women or their stories, as the time frame moves from 1941 in a near-desert-like community during wartime, back to 1923 in a beautiful, secluded mountain village, and then far ahead to 1975 in the big city as the long fascist dictatorship was drawing to a close. The women's stories are unusual enough to keep us interested -- two engage in full-out love relationships that come to sad ends, while the third holds back, waiting for that someone special (movies play a big part in her life).

Ortiz moves us back and forth between the tales, holding us pretty firmly in her grasp, thanks not only to the strength of the three actresses but literally to every cast member, well-chosen and delivering exactly what is needed.

If the emotional high point, for me, at least, comes at a moment (shown above) -- in which superb visual technique combines with storytelling, character and my own anti-Franco feelings -- yours may occur elsewhere. Whatever the filmmaker loses by offering us three stories in which none of the character connect on the personal level, she gains back via the beauty of her images, the strength of the performances and the quiet state of wonder (in both meanings of the word) in which she leaves us pondering.

The original Spanish title of the film is De tu ventana a la mía, which I believe translates as From Your Window to Mine, and is a much better -- more personal and connective --- name for this film, even if less marquee-friendly. Chrysalis is too overused a title, though a butterfly does appear in one story, with its life cycle discussed at some length.

The film will be shown one more time -- this afternoon, Sunday, December 9, at 4pm -- at the Walter Reade theater -- and Ms Ortiz, shown at right, will appear in-person for a post-screening Q&A.

Spanish Cinema Now continues through December 16. See the entire program by clicking the link above.

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