LA FLOR. THE PLEASURE PRINCIPLE
ZINEBI is delighted to bring you the Spanish premiere of La flor, the longest fiction film in cin- ema (fourteen and a half hours long), directed by Mariano Llinás. To look closely at this great filmmaker, we have to consider two fundamental facts that may not seem important at first glance: that he carries about him the aura of a patriarch (he is large and portly) and that he lives in the port neighbourhood of San Telmo.
His productions are the last ones made with sweat and toil: you need a lot of strength and physical stamina for such an impressive deployment of energy (ten years of intercontinental filming and the encouragement of a constantly mobilised group of friends – the actors and tech- nicians at El Pampero production company). Llinás is an insatiable, Wellesian character (he also smokes Havana cigars at bull fights) who carries a staff worthy of a biblical prophet when he is filming, in much the same way that Sam Fuller carried a Colt. 45. In interviews and writings, he confesses to being obsessed by the example of the prophet Noah, seeing cinema as an ark for saving things from the past. “All of the animals I like are in La flor. If we would like to look at the film indulgently, it is like Noah’s Ark (Sauve qui’il peut le cinematograph). We must remember that the 20th century is over, and we are responsible for safeguarding the things we like from that period”. That is why, as we said, the first thing we suspect when watching his films is that they have been made by an exemplary inhabitant of San Telmo, with its cobblestone streets, full of markets and peddlers, like a trip back in time (throughout the whole of the 20th century) and space (which separates but also connects America and Europe). Llinás is a nationalist from a district that contains a pars pro toto of the Western world during the last century, the only street where being a resident makes you an internationalist.
It has been ten years since Historias extraordinarias (2008) (screened at ZINEBI in 2011, when filming of La flor had already been going on for two years). That film was like a garden full of forked pathways (Borgesian, he confesses), a mesh of stories within stories set against the cen- tury surrounding them. Remembering Godard, somebody called them “Histoire(x) du cinema”.
La flor is more reminiscent of Cervantes than Borges and arrogantly takes place over several continents, especially in South America, but also in the main European cities and areas of Rus- sia and Asia. The arrogance of occupying other territories through fiction has been (since the 1920s) a prerogative of Hollywood film, where even Jesus Christ spoke English. It has taken 100 years but the important thing about La flor is the exact reverse. Its appropriation of nearly all the classic cinematographic genres (thriller, musical, spy story, idyllic love story) and their corre- sponding iconic places for Spain and South America. An epic reverse theft that South American cinema needed but never had. The arrogance of Llinás and of the four actresses from Piel de Lava (Valeria Correa, Laura Paredes, Pilar Gamboa and Elisa Carricajo), who play several roles and are multiplied on screen, is that of the “conquistadores” recovering (not without a certain pride) territories. Carricajo and Gamboa taking the Eiffel Tower and the Reichstag.
La flor leaves us with the sense (and the weight) of having read a sizable film. And of simul- taneously having watched a massive novel (classic and metalinguistic in time, like 2666 by Roberto Bolaño) and the cinematographic adaptation of the same. We can find a precedent for this sensation in the history of film and it is easily recognisable as these are films guided by a creative principle that is strongly linked to pleasure, such as in the case of Max Ophüls and his final work, Lola Montès (1955), the ambitious, postmodern female biography of a Mata Hari, of which La flor is like a mass multiplication. Films into which a group of creators put absolutely everything as if it were their first but also their last. Birth and testament in equal parts.
Film critic, programmer