Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Cerrar los ojos / Close Your Eyes

Víctor Erice: Cerrar los ojos / Close Your Eyes (ES/AR 2023). The actor Julio Arenas (José Coronado) on the night of his disappearance.

DIRECTOR: Víctor Erice
COUNTRY: Spain, Argentina
YEAR: 2023
DURATION: 169 min
LANGUAGES: Spanish, Catalan, English, French, subtitled in English
CATEGORY: Gems of New Cinema, Subtitles in English
Viewed at Lapinsuu, Sodankylä, Midnight Sun Film Festival (MSFF), 12 June 2024

Timo Malmi (MSFF 2024): " Spanish cinema virtuoso Víctor Erice has only made four feature films in 50 years, and Close Your Eyes is as masterful as any of them. Don’t be put off by its length: despite its many layers, this “film within a film” is easy to follow and never bores for a moment. As a little bonus, our 1995 guest pays homage to our festival: the main character’s friend Max wears a Midnight Sun Film Festival T-shirt from the 100 Years of Cinema edition! "

" Close Your Eyes, which explores the themes of time and memory, is set in 2012, but The Farewell Gaze – an unfinished film left behind by the protagonist, Miguel Garay – is being made in the 1990s and takes place on a third temporal plane, in France in 1947. The star of The Farewell Gaze, Julio Arenas, mysteriously disappears in the middle of filming, and in “present day,” Miguel is asked to appear on a TV show to investigate the case and its implications. "

" The melancholy Close Your Eyes is considered by many to be one of last year’s best films – although its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival was overshadowed by a curious episode: the film was in the main selection but, to Erice’s surprise, out of competition, prompting him to boycott the festival and publish an open letter about the matter. For an introduction to Erice’s South (1983) and an interview with the director, see Yle Teema’s Best of Midnight Sun Film Festival (pages 152-153). " Timo Malmi

AA: The year 2023 is turning out to be one of the greatest in the history of the cinema. One of its distinctions was that veterans and established masters presented some of their best work (Wes Anderson, the Dardenne brothers, Terence Davies, James Gray, Todd Haynes, Agnieszka Holland, Aki Kaurismäki, Ken Loach, Hayao Miyazaki, Errol Morris, Christopher Nolan, Alexander Payne, Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, Wim Wenders).

Add to their number Víctor Erice whose Close Your Eyes is a cinephilic detective story like La Morte Rouge. It is the most story-driven movie by the master from the Basque Country. 

Erice's movies are usually purely imagist, carried by the spell of poetic visions. In Close Your Eyes, Erice has lost none of the spellbinding power of his cinematography. An engrossing ambience of meditation and a genius in moments of epiphany are on display as profoundly as in The Spirit of the Beehive and El Sur.

But Close Your Eyes is also a storyteller's tale on many layers, continuing from the Sherlock Holmes legacy of La Morte Rouge, and displaying roots going deep into One Thousand and One Nights. Again there is a significant reference to the Spanish Civil War and the subsequent reign of terror.

A Jewish character in La mirada del adíos, the film within the film, is the primus motor. In 1947, the ageing Monsieur Lévy (Josep Maria Pou) engages a detective to find from Shanghai his only surviving relative, his daughter Judith / Qiao Shu (Venecia Franco). Monsieur Lévy has chosen the detective because of his record as a contact person during the French Occupation for refugees over the Pyrenees. The film ends with with Judith and Monsieur Lévy joining in the Sephardi song "Hija mia, mi querida". 

The actor Julio Arenas / Gardel (José Coronado) has lost his memory after playing the role of the detective for the director of La mirada del adíos, Miguel Garay (Manolo Solo). He has then lost contact with everybody, even his daughter Ana (Ana Torrent). There is an extraordinary double catharsis. The screening of the surviving reels of La mirada del adíos brings about an anagnorisis. On the verge of waking up from amnesia, Julio closes his eyes.

The Julio Arenas story evokes Leo Tolstoy's The Living Corpse, Luigi Pirandello's The Late Mattia Pascal and Michelangelo Antonioni's The Passenger.

There is a warm blur in the imagery, shot on 16 mm. Ana Torrent was discovered by Erice as a child for The Spirit of the Beehive when Franco was still alive. Her deeply moving presence 50 years later in Close Your Eyes evokes a feeling of a closing of a circle.

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