For Moncho, it's an idyllic year: he starts school, he has a wonderful teacher, he makes a friend in Roque, he begins to figure out some of the mysteries of Eros, and, with his older ...
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For Moncho, it's an idyllic year: he starts school, he has a wonderful teacher, he makes a friend in Roque, he begins to figure out some of the mysteries of Eros, and, with his older brother, a budding saxophone player, he makes a trip with the band from their town in Galicia. But it's also the year that the Spanish Republic comes under fire from Fascist rebels. Moncho's father is a Republican as is the aging teacher, Don Gregorio. As sides are drawn and power falls clearly to one side, the forces of fear, violence, and betrayal alter profoundly what should be the pleasure of coming of age. Written by
Certain difficulties for non-Spanish audiences, but worth the effort
Among recent Spanish films - and I refer to the last twenty five years -there has been some tendency towards an intimistic approach which rather limits deeper comprehension and the ability to grasp essential concepts for non-Spanish audiences, whether the film is dubbed or subtitled into English or not, or even for Spanish speaking people in Latin America. This causes certain difficulties, similar to what happens when European or North American audiences try to comprehend Chinese or Japanese films requiring knowledge of their history, culture, mores and values. This has certainly been the case with `Las Ratas' (1998) directed by Giménez Rico, and to some degree with other Spanish masterpieces such as `El Sur' (1982), `Los Santos Innocentes' (1984), and to a lesser extent with `El Abuelo' (1999) - reviewed elsewhere in IMDb. Perhaps for general audiences `La Plaza del Diamante' (1981, Francisco Beltrú), `Últimas Tardes con Teresa' (1983, Gonzalo Herralde), and `Las Bicicletas son para el Verano' (1983, Jaime Chávarri) are rather more accessible, but even so many nuances might be lost. This may well happen to many audiences watching the film known as `Butterfly' in English. The story is set in the north western region of Galicia during the winter and spring preceeding the outbreak of the Civil War, and told through the eyes of a little boy - Moncho (Manuel Lozano) - a tailor's son and younger brother of a would-be saxophonist. The film is a point-counterpoint on the values of friendship, loyalty and other feelings so common to ordinary townspeople living their easy and uncomplicated village lives, values which just break down under fear. You have to understand certain principles of Spanish behaviour veering from foolhardy courageousness to outright cowardice, from close friendship to open hostility, superbly summed up in the close-up final shot of Moncho's face, half angry and embittered, half bewildered and confused, as the lorry drives away. Fernando Fernán-Gómez is masterful as the lonely schoolteacher and Manuel Lozano as Moncho is definitely something very special. Watch out for Fernán-Gómez directing Manuel Lozano in `Lázaro de Tormes' (based on an anonymous medieval tale) and José Luis Garci directing him in `You're The One" (both 2000). `La Lengua de las Mariposas' is also highly recommendable for its beautiful photography in the lushly wooded green hills and valleys around Allariz and the River Arnoia in Ourense, one of the four provinces of Galicia. Worth 8 out of 10.
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