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Butterfly’s Tongue

La Lengua de las mariposas

Veteran director Jose Luis Cuerda’s masterpiece, Butterfly’s Tongue is a beautifully shot, perfectly paced film set in the months leading up to the Spanish Civil War. Seasoned scriptwriter Rafael Azcona transfers three stories into one seamless tale centred on a schoolteacher (the flawless Fernando Fernan G’mez) who takes a reserved and asthmatic student, Moncho (promising newcomer Manuel Lozano), under his wing. It is a dangerous year during which Franco’s fascist forces are beginning their assault on Spain. By the time the school year comes to an end and Franco’s troops roll into town, Moncho’s carefree life – along with his teenage brother’s, his hardworking parents’ and especially his liberal professor’s – will be irrevocably altered.

Lovers of Spanish cinema may find it difficult not to draw parallels between Butterfly’s Kiss and the myriad of other coming-of-age period pictures, but Cuerda’s film eludes the cliches of the genre by making the narrator’s age ultimately irrelevant. Mature viewers will find themselves riveted by an undeniably adult tale, at turns political, bittersweet and moralistic. An exceptional music track composed by young director Alejandro Amenabar (Open Your Eyes), himself a Cuerda disciple, complements the narrative.

Spain, 1999.
English subtitles.
Colour.
Panavision anamorphic.
Dolby digital stereo.
95 mins.

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