Archives for May 2024

Close Your Eyes”, a new film from Víctor Erice

Vet­er­an Span­ish film mak­er Víc­tor Erice emerged in 1973 with his haunt­ing fea­ture debut, The Spir­it of the Bee­hive. Ten years lat­er, he was all set to deliv­er his sec­ond, much-await­ed fea­ture, when the pro­duc­er out-Amber­son­ed him. 

Orson Welles had famous­ly seen his sec­ond film and the fol­low up to Cit­i­zen Kane uncer­e­mo­ni­ous­ly muti­lat­ed by RKO. When the stu­dio saw how down­beat the sec­ond half of The Mag­nif­i­cent Amber­sons was, and under­stood the irony of its title, they instruct­ed his edi­tor to cut the final 40 min­utes (yes, that’s forty) and add on an oh so tacky hap­py ending. 

Not to be out­done, when Erice’s pro­duc­er found out that El Sur (’83) had a sim­i­lar­ly sus­pect sec­ond half planned, he sim­ply refused to allow him to film its sec­ond half. So unsur­pris­ing­ly, the direc­tor has dis­owned it.

Ten years lat­er, Erice made the ele­giac doc­u­men­tary fea­ture, The Quince Tree Sun (’92). And now, thir­ty years after that, he has, at the age of 82, returned with his fourth fea­ture, Close Your Eyes

The film oper­ates on two lev­els. On its sur­face, a vet­er­an film mak­er ends up re-vis­it­ing the events around a film he’d been mak­ing over two decades ago, when the prin­ci­pal actor, and his close per­son­al friend, had sud­den­ly and inex­plic­a­bly dis­ap­peared with­out trace. Was it real­ly sui­cide, or did some­thing else take place?

But real­ly, the film is an explo­ration of mem­o­ry and loss, of roads not tak­en and the life that was lived as opposed to the many that remain only par­tial­ly embarked upon. The hand­ful of things you said yes to, and the many oth­ers that some­how slipped through your fin­gers to dis­ap­pear in the sand at your feet.

Close Your Eyes is not mere­ly one of the bet­ter films of the year, it’s one if the best. But your response, rather like the film itself, will reg­is­ter on two levels. 

Of course, it almost goes with­out say­ing, to see any­thing new from Erice is some­thing to be wel­comed with unbri­dled joy. And the fact that the film is, as I say, com­fort­ably in the top ten per cent of films made any­where in the world in 2023, is a mon­u­men­tal relief and to be loud­ly heralded. 

But The Spir­it of the Bee­hive and The Quince Tree Sun were both in the top one per cent of the films made when they came out. Which isn’t to sug­gest that Close Your Eyes is in any way dis­ap­point­ing. It’s just not the daz­zling, celes­tial tri­umph we’d all hoped it might be. The prob­lem, very sim­ply, is its length. 

There’s real­ly no need for its near three hours. As sac­ri­le­gious as this is to say out loud, I wish an edi­tor had been brought in to care­ful­ly cull it down to a trim two hours. There’s no need for any of the scenes in Andalu­cia, and those nuns, charm­ing as they are, should have been briefly glimpsed as non-speak­ing extras. 

It is of course com­plete­ly under­stand­able, not to say com­mend­able, that he should have want­ed to give as many of his col­lab­o­ra­tors as many moments in the sun as he could muster. But it’s hard not to qui­et­ly wish that he were a far less gen­er­ous col­lab­o­ra­tor and a slight­ly more rig­or­ous film maker. 

All of which is to quib­ble. Watch Close Your Eyes, it’s one of the best films of the year. And then treat your­self to The Spir­it of the Bee­hive, and The Quince Tree Sun.

You can see the trail­er to Close Your Eyes below:

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