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In spite of a title that sounds as gentle as a sonnet, La Flor is a subversive film. In a world where everything has a specific size, duration and purpose, this Arabian Nights-like story reminds us that films are, by their nature, immeasurable. Not in terms of length, but cinema’s ability to conjure so many things in a defined space-time rectangle that it feels like there’s an entire world behind every single shot. With unprecedented creative effort, Mariano Llinas has made a very long film, not to expand a story, but to condense a multitude of universes. The 800 minutes and more that form La Flor are filled with stories, cinematic ideas, words in multiple languages, places and filmmaking techniques. They are perhaps the best depiction of the theory whereby ours is but one of many possible worlds.
The overlapping characters, fighting to remain in our memories, fuel the film’s storytelling exuberance. The lingering overall feeling is that of a beautiful, long journey, of growing up with these stories, of learning that a face can have many nuances and a story many forms. Of course, the episodes give an illusion of pacing: the first, in spite of a location that clots the story, has a centrifuge energy, like that of a water diviner, and subtly introduces one of the themes of the storytelling, that is to say contagion; the second, the most seductive, wraps itself around us like a song and never lets go; the third, the most Borges-like, is a journey around the world at the end of the Cold War, in the company of stories that hide behind the fascinating faces of spies; the fourth, the loosest and most experimental, is dedicated to Hugo (Santiago) and split in two very different parts, the trees and the letters of the “cat”; the fifth pays tribute to Renoir and all those who love filming out in the open; the sixth, the most fluid and dream-like, is a quick flash, a testimony from afar, inspired by real events.
Even when put together, the episodes do not accurately reflect the vertigo-like feeling of a film that ceaselessly looks for its center. Only an Argentinian filmmaker could have thought of this: someone who has seen the endless hills (where the film ends), who has received news from the world with a slight delay and rejigged them with the outlook of the other side of the globe; only someone who understands the meaning of the outskirts of the soul and travels before he’s even started walking could have made something so presumptuous and fascinating, so encyclopedic and meandering. It is the finest tribute to the storytelling factory that has replaced literature, and whose pleasure is yet to abandon us.