La Flor

Review by Matt Thrift @Matt_Cinephile

Directed by

Mariano Llinás

Starring

Elisa Carricajo Pilar Gamboa Valeria Correa

Anticipation.

Wait, it’s how long?

Enjoyment.

As Corman-Rivette-Lang- Almodóvar-Feuillade-Tarantino- Renoir-Hitchcock mash-ups go...

In Retrospect.

An endlessly playful and playfully endless riot. Wildly, staggeringly entertaining.

An epic in the literal sense of the world. Mariano Llinás goes long with this thrilling paean to genre cinema through the ages.

Any conversational mention of Argentinian filmmaker Mariano Llinás’ second narrative feature on the festival circuit over the last 12 months will have inevitably made swift reference to its length. So let’s get this out of the way up top: La Flor runs at 808 minutes. Which, when you think about it, is around the same length as a single season of prestige television.

It’s a comparison worth making because La Flor, despite where it’s likely to end up playing, is about as far removed from any notion of the arthouse cinematic endurance test as it’s possible to get. You won’t find any 17 minute, fixed-camera shots of cows in a field. La Flor is a genre movie. Six genre movies, even. It plays in three parts, each with a couple of intervals. Thirteen-and-a-half hours breeze by.

Llinás introduces the project in its opening minutes, explaining the structure from a roadside picnic area. “The first episode could be regarded as a B-movie, the kind that Americans used to shoot with their eyes closed, and now just can’t shoot anymore.” And so we’re thrown into the Roger Corman school of filmmaking: an archaeological dig and a cursed mummy. The story doesn’t have an ending. With the exception of part five – a remake of Jean Renoir’s 1946 short, Partie de Campagne – none of the episodes do.

“A sort of musical with a touch of mystery,” is how Llinás describes episode two, a jaw-dropping piece of Almodóvar-ian melodrama with a subplot featuring a secretive cabal of scientists who seek the life-giving properties of a rare scorpion’s poison. Throw in multiple allusions to Hitchcock’s Vertigo and you’re not even half way there. By the end of this second episode, you’ll be starting to think that Llinás can do just about anything, and that with 10 hours still to go, he probably will.

Episode three is the centrepiece, a spy movie that takes up the entirety of the second part’s six hours. A quartet of kickass female assassins – played by the same four actresses who appear across each of La Flor’s episodes in different roles – are being hunted down by a rival crew. Quentin Tarantino paying lo-fi tribute to the crime serials of Louis Feuillade gives a sense of it, but Kill Bill wishes it were this much fun.

The final three, shortest episodes make up La Flor’s third part. The funniest revolves around a Llinás proxy’s epic film project failing to progress as he travels the country searching for the perfect cherry blossom, his actresses rebelling – and turning into witches – while he’s off making endless pillow shots of trees in bloom.

“I’d say the movie is about them, and, somehow, for them,” says Llinás of his female cast in the opening prologue, and La Flor quietly substantiates its feminist credentials throughout, without the embarrassment of drawing attention to them.

Needless to say, Llinás treats genre with the utmost seriousness, fully attuned to its myriad deconstructive possibilities and surface entertainment value. Wondrously playful and endlessly inventive, there’s little question that La Flor represents one of the cinematic events of the year. Its length might suggest a home viewing further down the line, but this belongs on the big screen – the sheer pleasures of it, hour by hour, can’t be stated strongly enough.

Published 11 Sep 2019

Tags: Mariano Llinás

Anticipation.

Wait, it’s how long?

Enjoyment.

As Corman-Rivette-Lang- Almodóvar-Feuillade-Tarantino- Renoir-Hitchcock mash-ups go...

In Retrospect.

An endlessly playful and playfully endless riot. Wildly, staggeringly entertaining.

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