Projections - Movie Reviews

Butterfly Butterfly

It's 1936 Spain and Jose Luis Cuerda's Butterfly begins with striking antiquated charts underneath opening credits, as the snapshots show what life was like before fascism became the new order of government.

The civil war which brought the dictatorial Franco's rule for many decades, appeared to be a prelude for World War II with communist Russian and the ascending Hitler in the spotlight.  Revolutionary types were challenged by Russia as the leftist rulers were legally voted into power.

The opening of Butterfly early in the summer season has the idea of snippets of freedom on view, as democracy and religious attitudes contrary to the monarchy weren't readily averred and Cuerda sensibly distills this coming of age tale from the view of a young (seven year old) boy, about to start a new school year in the village of Galicia.

Cuerda's innocent is Moncho (Manuel Lozan), wide eyed with full cheeks and afraid of the schoolmaster, Don Gregorio (Fernando Fernan Gomez) due to what his older brother says about the instructor's harshness.

The teacher eases the lisping Moncho under his tutelage and nicely imparts to him some of life's pleasures.  In conveying the notion of being your brother's keeper, the old man gives the boy a butterfly net and the book, Treasure Island.

Nonetheless, Cuerda depicts Moncho's family life in a golden luster, and the pastoral shots and homes have a veneer that compares favorably to the early reels of Life Is Beautiful.  Again, it's about a venal government on the verge of shattering a seemingly heavenly situation.

The conflict between the shaky republic and the fascists is earnest, and the familiarity is there with Moncho and a friend learning of the birds and bees, accentuated by older brother's zealous sexual curiosity.  Subtly, Cuerda has little humanity before cruelty gains strength, as a tramp in the village with a strange relationship and Moncho's dad with his hazy extremist views kept hush hush, begin to indicate that Moncho may soon be in a danger zone.

From Manuel Rivas' short stories, Butterfly is filled with nostalgia and much ruefulness, as the last act becomes very emotional. Cuerda's Goya Award winner definitely resonates with its mores of the times, but overall its idyllic tendencies dilute the source of an otherworldly fire, that shamelessly snatches one with a poignancy in the heat of a fearful moment.

 
Frank
Chris
Tony
Jim
Kathleen
Avg.
Butterfly
B+
 
 
B-
 
B
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