July 2019, arsenal cinema

Berlin Premiere: LA FLOR

LA FLOR, 2018

LA FLOR (The Flower, Mariano Llinás, Argentina 2018) is an outstanding contemporary film project: a director and his four actresses play around with cinema, with their playful urges knowing no bounds. They create fantastical spaces and couldn’t care less about sense, logic, and dramatic structure, even forgetting time in the process. Film history is their adventure playground, where they spent over ten years completing a nearly 14-hour work. Yet one can hardly speak of a closed story. LA FLOR is an open work in the very best sense, continually sprouting new images and blossoming afresh, a wander through genre cinema, divided into three chapters, six episodes, and eight acts. Mariano Llinás from the El Pampero Cine film collective and the acting troop Piel de Lava invite the audience to follow their intertwining narratives, which sometimes cross, but equally digress or simply peter out completely. A B-movie doesn’t necessarily have to end in a thundering showdown. The numerous voiceovers in the spy thriller contradict one another and deliberately lead the viewer up the garden path, while the images keep a further version of the story ready. Musical intermezzi recall the classic screenings of the magnificent cinema palaces of the 30s and 40s. The acting also involves a certain seriousness, which actresses Elisa Carricajo, Pilar Gamboa, Valeria Correa, and Laura Paredes perform with beautiful dedication, reflecting in the process both on their own roles as actress well as more traditional ones. While the work and its actresses are permanently reinventing themselves and shifting locations, one can practically see oneself watching and marveling. LA FLOR was received enthusiastically at numerous festivals. Now Arsenal is showing the work as a Berlin premiere in compact form across three evenings (July 12 - 14), followed by screenings of the individual acts.

LA FLOR – CHAPTER 1, ACT 1 (12. & 16.7.) The director reveals his program, which is anything but programmatic. And a B-movie with horror elements runs its excessive course in a desert landscape. The music rushes from highpoint to highpoint, while the actresses in white lab coats are in search of the plot. A mummy with a red blindfold delivered to a laboratory unasked is a welcome McGuffin. The more that happens, the bigger the mystery becomes, which doesn’t necessarily want to be solved. An abrupt shift in genre and location follows and a musical with mysterious undertones begins: a couple no longer together are supposed to record one last joint song. The result is a celebration of pathos that reveals the deep truths of popular music. Whenever everything becomes too sudsy, the camera sticks to the heels of the duo’s assistant. She seemingly belongs to a Mafia association active worldwide that has some extravagant interests.  

LA FLOR – CHAPTER 1, ACT 2 (12. & 18.7.) A pop star’s new lover looks for his long-term girlfriend, hoping to follow in her footsteps not just in bed, but on stage too. The camera studies faces in close-up for the time it takes for several cigarettes to be smoked, faces that wrestle for composure and register inner turmoil at the same time. The last joint studio session of the former couple also plays out in real time. Feelings become expressive gestures, despairing looks, and every note hits the nail on the head.

LA FLOR – CHAPTER 2, AKT 1 (13. & 20.7.) Four agents kidnap an already kidnapped Swedish scientist from a finca somewhere in South America to take him out of the country. They themselves are in the sights of an unpredictable gang of killers. In lengthy shots, the cool gazes and gestures of the 80s spy thriller are celebrated. No further action is needed.

LA FLOR – CHAPTER 2, ACT 2 (13. & 20.7.) The plot doesn’t play much of a role, with the focus lying instead on exploring the essence of the classic agent film. With shifts in location between London, Brussels and a divided Berlin. With recourse to a narrator in voiceover who knows more than the audience but isn’t willing to share that knowledge. With the man before the telephone who collects the information while only picking up the receiver from time to time.

LA FLOR – CHAPTER 2, ACT 3 (13. & 22.7.) Spy films involve disguises, masquerade. During the Cold War, two agents on a secret mission must constantly play a couple in the first flush of love. Yet in so doing, they come to mask the true feelings they have for one another.

LA FLOR – CHAPTER 3, ACT 1 (14. & 24.7.) The director of LA FLOR jots down his worries in his diary. The shoot has lasted for five whole years in the meantime and discussions with the actresses are only increasing in frequency. There is a new producer. Costumes have already been tried on for further plot strands, two of the actresses are wearing Canadian Mountie uniforms, a third wears the traditional attire of the indigenous peoples of America. The camera takes its time to observe the beauty of nature, but the actress find themselves more photogenic than trees and force their way into the frame.

LA FLOR – CHAPTER 3, ACT 2 (14. & 26.7.) Mariano Llinás’s creative crisis brings forth an associative stream of images that no longer knows any direction and perhaps doesn’t need it either. The relationship between director and actresses is reflected upon in a Casanova episode. The bon vivant is forced to discover that he is the puppet of a gang of women called The Spider. Casanova becomes a doubting, despairing alter ego of the director.

LA FLOR – CHAPTER 3, ACT 3 (14. & 28.7.) The image becomes black and white. Two men stick on moustaches and reenact the French classic Partie de campagne by Jean Renoir, albeit as a seductively strange homage in Argentinian gaucho outfits – including a barbecue interlude. From the banks of the river, the journey moves to the solitude of the Wild West. Four women who were kept imprisoned by the Indians are now looking to find their way back into civilization. An existentialist trip with lots of music and without words. (ale)

Becoming an Arsenal member allows you to buy multiple screening tickets, which reduce the price of entry to just 4€ per screening.

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