Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 14, 2020 7:48 am 
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Gorgeous images of a haunted world staged along the Galician coast of Spain

The young Spanish filmmaker Lois Patiño has a penchant for haunted, beautiful landscapes and for the human history embedded in his own native landscape. In this film the focus is on a fishing village along the Galician coast, rock tides, and death in the water. Village people, engaged for the film enterprise, lend their stubby bodies and stolid gazes to Patiño, who uses them arrestingly as statues or mannequins posed near the water, in a small grove, in an awesome, empty building, or in a quiet, old fashioned family house interior.

A simple narrative theme runs through the images. Rubio (Rubio de Camelle) is a fisherman who is also diver who has specialized for years in retrieving drowned bodies from shipwrecks, who himself has disappeared, and villagers speculate about whether he will reappear. He believed a monster is hunting the shores of his coastal town as he discovered corpses around as he takes his boat out in the morning. Now his boat has run aground, without Rubio. Gradually statue-like figures appear around in landscapes and architectural interiors, tall, thin, immobile, draped in shimmering white. There is talk of phantoms and ghosts and demons and three witches coming for people. Themes of death and the water come and go.

It's impossible to exaggerate how subtle and beautiful these images are, the soft yellow-filtered tints, the reds, the textures of cloth: everything is like a sculpture or something made out of sewn cloth. And the colors, toward the end, when red begins to prevail, you can lose yourself in them. It is indeed a gorgeous picture of a phantom world, dreamland, nightmare, or perverse paradise? The scenes unfold, one after another exquisitely composed tableaux that transform what might in some cases be only ordinary images of everyday Spanish village life into mythical wonders. And the moons! The 37-year-old Patiño has mastered the art of turning images of everyday lives into the mythical.

This is filmmaking that is largely a celebration of the visual. The dreams or nightmares of a lost fisherman and a world of lost souls, a project long in gestation are nonetheless somewhat underdeveloped as narrative. But if you're willing to sit back and enjoy the eye candy, there's something rather unique here. The transition from his short films to this feature length has been a little uneven. This may be a pretty long slog for some people.

In an interview with Film Comment, the filmmaker has said that this long-gestating film was at first meant to be more of a documentary. But, I'd say, he is just too much of an artist and a dreamer to be contented with the real. Toward the end of the process of making Red Moon Tide, he says he "got very deep into H.P. Lovecraft," so he "eventually tried" to "bring the story a little towards the terror genre." Everything he loves and knows, he put into it. It's thus a film to study more than simply go and watch.

Red Moon Tied/Lua vermela, 84 mins., debuted at the Berlinale Feb. 2020, also showing at Malaga, IndieLIsboa and Toulouse. Screened for this review as part of the delayed FLC New Directors/New Films 2020, online Dec. 2020.

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