Tuesday, October 27, 2015

From Basque country: Garaño and Goenaga's quiet, thoughtful, deeply moving FLOWERS

Back in 2010 TrustMovies viewed and covered, during the FSLC's sorely missed annual series, Spanish Cinema Now, a wonderful film from writers/directors Jon Garaño and José Mari Goenaga titled 80 Days (80 egunean). That film unfortunately never saw theatrical release here in the USA, so it pleases me no end to be able to cover the theatrical debut of the pair's latest work, FLOWERS (Loreak). This marks the first time a Basque-language film has been submitted by Spain as the country's nominee for Best Foreign Language Film at the upcoming Oscars. (Language enthusiasts and foreign film buffs alike will discover that the Basque language, Euskara, sounds little like Spanish.)

The talented pair of writers/directors, Garaño and Goenaga (above, with the latter on the left), here abetted in the writing department by Aitor Arregi, have created a quietly complicated tale of lives entwining in a most unusual way. Oddly entwined lives are nothing new to cinema (consider Paul Haggis' Oscar winner Crash and his much-better, though less seen, Third Person), but what distinguishes the world of these filmmakers is how beautifully they avoid melodrama, despite their film being about some of the very things -- love, possible adultery, death and family squabbles -- most prone to bring this out in a movie.

Instead, the filmmakers -- via elegant, composed-but-never-showy cinematography (by Javier Agirre) and a tale that holds our attention by virtue of its complicated and beautifully wrought characters -- draw us in and manage to keep us focused on the bigger picture, even if we don't know for some time what that picture will include.

The story involves an early-middle-aged woman (a lovely, smart, and very subtle performance by Nagore Aranburu, above) who gets some surprising news from her physician, after which she begins receiving weekly delivery of flowers -- with no note or name-of-sender attached.

Another woman, Lourdes, a wife and mother who works as a toll collector (Itziar Ituño, above) is in an unhappy relationship with her mother-in-law, Tere (Itziar Aizpuru, below, who was so fine in the filmmakers' earlier 80 Days).

What connects all three women is a man -- surprise! -- Beñat (played by Josean Bengoetxea, below), who proves the filmmakers' ace-in-the-hole: a character who bonds the others -- and the movie itself -- even though we never really know him nearly as well as we come to know these women. In the film's finest scenes, we follow along with what happens to one of these characters -- as a corpse! -- and the movie touches profundity without ever seeming pretentious.

Garaño and Goenaga's great accomplishment, in addition to avoiding the expected melodrama, is to make mysterious -- even as they show us the connections and characters -- the workings of this thing we call life. And while they do not leave any "loose ends," how events work out, and why, is full of the unexpected made entirely credible.

Flowers is so very fine a film, in fact, that I would hope to see it among the finalists for that Oscar. Probably not, however, because the Academy usually proves more receptive to melodrama over real drama or films of particular subtlety. But we'll see.

Meanwhile, you see this film, please -- if possible on the big screen, where it's wide-screen cinematography is best appreciated. From Music Box Films and running 99 minutes, it opens this Friday, October 30, in New York City at the Paris Theatre, then goes to Washington DC on November 6, to Philadelphia on November 20, and to Los Angeles at Laemmle's Royal on November 27. Click here, then scroll down and click on THEATERS to see all currently scheduled playdates.  

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