Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 14, 2020 1:50 pm 
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A semi-horror/fantasy film about a cult in the Colombian mountains that fizzles

I can't do more than express my support of what Calum McDab says of the Spanish language slow-burn horror-fantasy movie film Luz: Flower of Evil on Yes, it's remarkable that something this good looking was made on an 18-day schedule and a $20,000 budget. But the screenplay just is not interesting. All the flowery mumbling about the Deity and Satan and the Angels and "the Lord" (TV veteran Conrado Osorio), the latter being the small mountain group's cult leader, adds up to nothing but wasting our time. The comparisons with Robert Eggers' The Witch and Ari Aster's Midsommer are simply claims Escobar Alzate can't live up to.

I knew I was in for trouble when I was treated at the film's very outset to a long, ravishing passage from Mozart's Clarinet Quintet in A Major, one of my favorite pieces in the world, with a montage of pretty, wild scenery, and then came to a scene where a scruffy man in a beard, who's been playing this on a cassette tape on a little player (though the diegetic effect was bypassed) and then tells two goofy looking, scruffy women that this is the work of the Devil, nay, pure evil itself. This could indeed be the introduction to a kind of horror movie, I suppose. But the mental level was turned down too far even for members of a remote rural cult, as was clear when "El Señor" told the scruffy lady who had found this cassette tape out in the woods that this was called "music." How could anyone reach semi-adulthood and not have learned that word?

What follows blends together because it os so repetitious. Eventually, after much talk, there is the night scene when "The MEssiah" is brought in. He is a blond, blue-eyed boy, also on the scruffy and goofy looking side, with a rusty ring around his neck because he's a prisoner. Seen from the middle distance, someone is being raped, but the camerawork doesn't show who. Here Escobar Alzate and crew show their limitations, because this action should be more mysterious, more attractive, more terrifying, and more interesting than it is. Merely not showing very clearly what's going on isn't enough to make an action fascinating. One wondered why more was not made of the youth's blondness.

McNab goes on to complain, justifiably, of the "Repetitive dialogue, uncomfortable over-acting and redundant flash-backs." He's probably right in calling the score (not counting Mozart) "feeble," and I'm indebted to him for pointing out that the images are "nauseatingly color-corrected." So that's what it is! Maybe that excessively "perfect," over-intense color means something, McNab suggests - in a rare stumble, I'd say, - "a meta-textual example on the theme of duality." That doesn't make sense to me. (The color is intentional, anyway, since the "color timing technician, Felipe Martinez, is named in the credits.)

The duality of good and evil is an ostensible theme of the movie, but, again as McNAb says, the overriding subject is how men exploit women, but the action seems to revel too much in such misbehavior, instead of exploring and condemning it.

So what we have here is a good-looking terrible movie, which aspires to be something that it's not capable of being. I thought right away of two Latin American directors who work on the edge with great power, the Mexicans Carlos Reygadas and Lisandro Alonso. Alonso takes us memorably out into the wilderness for unspeakable violence (Silent Light, 2007). But these are great directors who have done wonderful work and Luz: The Flower of Evil is a failure.

Of course Luz will have its fans, like the critic who called it a "gorgeous provocation" (nice pull-quote, that), Kurt Halfyard of Screen Anarachy, who in his review calls Luz's dp, Nicolás Caballero, and his 16mm work here, "world class" and sees strong similarities to Eggers' The Witch. But wait--Halfyard is talking about posters for the film. In his review where he used the phrase "gorgeous provocation," he refers admiringly, if briefly, to Luz's "endless purple skies, looming grey waterfalls, and warm thatch-lined cottage compositions" used to "compliment the barely restrained madness of the narrative." He makes clear, clearer than I or McNab have done, that this film contains some scary stuff. But it's dangerous for fantasy-horror when prettiness may outweigh scariness. Luz will have a long life as home video. In fact that's why I'm writing about it now; it comes out on DVD tomorrow. And the box has a ready-made cult look even I can admire.


Luz: The Flower of Evil, 104 mins., debuted at Sitges Oct. 2019, showing Nov. 2 at Morbido festival (Mexico) and Nov. 5 at in spaid and Aug. 19, 2020 at Night Visions Film Festival. Dark Sky Films brings the film to digital and VOD Sept. 15, 2020.

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