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February 2 – February 17, 2019

The Extraordinary Stories of Mariano Llinás

Mariano Llinás (b. 1975) occupies a crucial yet unclassifiable place within contemporary Argentine and world cinema as an outlier who reinvents traditional forms of cinematic narrative in bold and wonderful defiance of the vanguard and mainstream alike. Rejecting the minimalist formalism loosely shared by many of today’s great film auteurs and the maximalist THEMES of award-driven Industry movies, Llinás embraces cinema as a different kind of narrative art, a mode of intoxicating and enlightening storytelling in a constant state of radical potential. Beginning with Historias Extraordinarias and continuing in his über-obra-maestra La Flor, Llinás unfurls vast canvases that he fills, patiently and passionately, with a multitude of intimate and often fantastical fables, emotionally charged adventures that fragment, intertwine and implode with energies drawn from the twice-told tales of historic film genres and modernist literature. Both epic and epigrammatic, Llinás’ films are multi-chaptered and multi-layered—combining musical melodrama with spies and assassination plots, cursed mummies with Wild West desperados—and inserting introspective double portraits into complex ensemble pieces. There is a literary taproot to the boundless imagination of Llinás’ deeply cinematic masterworks, but the branches rise high into the cinematic firmament. The radically inventive writings of Borges and Bolaño are recognizable as clear inspirations for Llinás’ ceaselessly unspooling narrative adventures, but equally important, in tone and spirit, are the Romanticism of Robert Louis Stevenson, the chronicle adventures of Jack London and the fantasies of Jules Verne. Even closer still to the palpitating hearts of Historias Extraordinarias and La Flor are the films—the many, many films—that seem to have been lovingly devoured and reconstituted in novel but recognizable forms, genre films of all kinds, but most of all those deliberately minor and unfettered works, the B-films of the studio era created in a spirit of freedom not possible for bigger pictures; the kind of film, as Llinás says in the preamble to La Flor, “that the Americans used to make with their eyes closed and now cannot or do not want to anymore.”

The films of Mariano Llinás renew the promise and adventure of cinematic narrative. But they are also explorations of performance and the rapturous enigma of cinematic presence, of the star and her ability to transform and transfix, to hold the film and our hearts in her hands. The same four actresses who star across the six different episodes of La Flor push to a furthest extreme Llinás’ fascination with mutable performance. Flickering across the different roles played with distinct inflection by Elisa Carricajo, Valeria Correo, Pilar Gamboa and Laura Paredes is an ideal of cinema and beauty itself as a wondrously elusive constant, a mode of unquenchable desire. 

The Harvard Film Archive is delighted to welcome Mariano Llinás for a three-night screening of La Flor, joined in dialogue with fellow Porteño filmmaker Matías Piñeiro whose own films, screened and celebrated on several occasions by the HFA, are evidentiary tributes to the cinema’s all-too-often unrealized potential. – Haden Guest

Special thanks: Mariano Siskind, Department of Romance Languages and Literatures, Harvard; Paola Ibarra Deschamps—David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, Harvard.

        


Saturday February 2 at 5:30pm
Saturday February 9 at 5:30pm

Extraordinary Stories
(Historias Extraordinarias)

Directed by Mariano Llinás. With Mariano Llinás, Walter Jakob, Agustín Mendilaharzu
Argentina 2008, digital video, color, 245 min. Spanish, English and German with English subtitles

Historias Extraordinarias established itself as a groundbreaking film in contemporary Argentine cinema by tackling the standards of both the industry and the independent scene. The film made a daring proposition: cinema is an art that can still tell extraordinary stories as in the tradition of 19th-century writers like Robert Louis Stevenson and Lucio Victorio Mansilla.

What could appear at first to be a premise of legendary ambitions became, when facts were finally printed, a rupturist stand. In order to make a film of more than four hours, with thirty actors and over sixty locations, that includes a sequence set during the Second World War, exploding monoliths in Las Pampas and a generous amount of voiceover, an entire new system had to be created. Every professional producer would have rejected a project such as this, alleging its unfundable budget, its uncertain production schedule and its inexistent exploitation circuit. Thus, Historias Extraordinarias is a film made out of the impossible.

But it is not only the industry that has exposed its limitations; independent film production would also show little imagination to conceive of such a film. Any compromise against Llinás’ larger-than-life narrative ambitions would annihilate the heart and soul of Historias Extraordinarias. The independent circuit—too accustomed to minimalism, DIY pieces and stolen moments of bliss—could not figure Llinás’ greater expectations. Against the bureaucracy of the industry and the conformity of the independents, Llinás created a system of his own and produced, over five years, an exceptional film that most passionately breaks not a few of the rules of this game we call cinema.

With Llinás, we learn that in order to tell extraordinary stories you have to do it in an extra-ordinary way. In this epic detour, cinema had to find another economy, another dialectic between mise-en-scène and production and, furthermore, reconsider the dynamic between the art and its makers. In demolishing old and new production routines, Llinás called for a renewed praise in favor of amateurism, a philosophy in which the passion for the craft is so intense that the object merges with the lives of the artists involved. In this respect, Llinás could be considered a vanguardist filmmaker, as in the tradition of Orson Welles and Jean-Luc Godard. Historias Extraordinarias stepped onto the stage of Argentine cinema to crack its molded wooden floor. It pulled that theater down and built up new principles for other film practices to exist.

His subversive gesture is not pessimistic but merely creative. It is full of joy, with the pleasure of mastering, sharing and getting lost in the artifice of storytelling. Historias Extraordinarias confirms that cinema as a narrative discipline still has much to offer. It just needs not to fall into the hands of bureaucrats and festival snatchers, and resist among those who love, who would give their lives for another roll of dice in the realization of their art. – Matías Piñeiro

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Sunday February 3 at 7pm
Friday February 22 at 9pm

Balnearios

Directed by Mariano Llinás
Argentina 2002, digital video, color, 80 min. Spanish with English subtitles

The first film by Llinás is an affectionate and slightly irreverent meditation on an Argentine cultural icon little known to the outside world: the turn-of-the century sea resorts that linger on in the popular imagination as an ideal of leisure, recreation and national prosperity. As an essay film, Balnearios unfolds through a series of twisting and leaping synoptic moves that anticipate the complex fragmentary structures and strategies explored in his later epic films.

An odd and humorous encyclopedia regarding costumes and stories from Argentine bath resorts. Cities under water, lifeguards, luxury hotels from early XXth Century, mermaids, dams, small town public resorts, sea animals and sand castles gather in a surprising and labyrinthical essay. The idea of cities dedicated exclusively to idleness, watering and rest, completely empty along the winter months and crowded in the summer; the idea of modern pagan cities given to the worship of the sea, may be thought as a strange, fascinating phenomenon. This film is the result of such fascination. – Mariano Llinás

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$12 Special Event Tickets
Mariano Llinás in Conversation with Matías Piñeiro

PART ONE: Friday February 15 at 6pm
PART TWO: Saturday February 16 at 2pm
PART THREE: Sunday February 17 at 2pm

La Flor (The Flower)

Directed by Mariano Llinás. With Elisa Carricajo, Valeria Correa, Pilar Gamboa, Laura Paredes
Argentina 2018, DCP, color, 206 min (Part One), 342 min (Part Two), 342 min (Part Three). Spanish, French, English, Russian, German and Swedish with English subtitles

If the history of film were based, like ancient mythology, on legends and fables, then no one could disregard the end of Stromboli, Terra di Dio, the film that Rossellini premiered at Cannes in 1950. There was nothing particular about the plot, a mere anecdote, and the film could easily be confused with other neorealist works that had begun to sprout like mushrooms at festivals the world over: A woman, fleeing from war, stuck in a refugee camp, agrees to marry a young Italian and move with him to his town in a miserable island south of the Tyrrhenian Sea. The woman is beautiful, educated, sensitive; the lad bends over backwards for her, but can do nothing to change his coarseness, his ignorance, his brutishness. The island is arid and inhospitable, and a permanently active volcano rules the lives of the inhabitants like an evil God. The woman quickly discovers that this island is to be her prison, and the film shows this gradual imprisonment in the open air. At the end, the woman decides to flee and, in a quasi-mystical act, ascends the erupting volcano. The final image is of the woman, almost now a saint, looking out on this boundless and terrible panorama. So why do we think this ending is essential? Well, because that woman, facing death, dazzled by the spine-chilling beauty of that devastated land, is Ingrid Bergman, the most important actress in the world, the same who years earlier had stunned Hitchcock and Bogart, and had swanned like a queen through the palaces of the world. The same woman who, just months before becoming that anonymous peasant, had been Joan of Arc. That was the person who climbed up the side of the erupting volcano, who gave herself to the erupting volcano like an offering, and waiting for her on the other side was neither Hitchcock nor Bogart, but Rossellini, the most modern of directors, breathing new life into cinema, the same who, after years of mendacious interiors, turned the cameras around and made them look out to the world. That was the ceremony that was being celebrated with this final scene. The princess abandoning everything, bidding adieu to the glitz and the glory, to run almost barefoot across the parched clay and immerse herself in the sulfurous fumes, into the arms of a moody and surly man, but a man who knew how to look at things and take from them the poetry and the truth. So would the ending have been any different if the actress had been another woman? If, alongside her, Ilsa from Casablanca and Alicia from Notorious had not been climbing that same redemptive volcano? The filming of Stromboli was the first time that the earlier career of an actor turned a fictional scene into something else. For the first time, the woman who goes up the volcano is not playing a queen, but rather, she is a queen. She does not play Joan of Arc: she is Joan of Arc.

The aim of the project titled The Flower is similar to that of Stromboli, but with an added ingredient. The film does not set out to use an actress’ prior work to bring a particular emotion to a series of images. Instead, The Flower aspires to construct, to constitute this experience. The experience is the very film itself. Viewers see various actresses’ careers unfolding before their eyes, as part of the same film. The idea is that one film should be a series of films, an era in the life of four people, and that cinema should be able to show this passing of time, this learning, this process. That from the different inventions and fantasies that the avatars of the project gradually contribute, one can see eventually the true face of the four women, shining brightly through the fog of fiction. – Mariano Llinás

DCP courtesy El Cine Pampero

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