The Butterfly (la Lenguas De Las Mariposas)

on June 16, 2000 by Wade Major
   An otherwise unremarkable coming-of-age tale, "The Butterfly" (previously titled "Butterfly's Tongue") is distinguished by polished production values and sensitive direction from veteran Jose Luis Cuerda. Set in Spain's Galicia region in the years just prior to the Spanish Civil War, the film focuses on the relationship between a shy, introverted young boy and his aging, liberal teacher. The typically colorful cast of supporting provincial characters provide the necessary backdrop for the lessons about love, life, nature and sex which serve as metaphorical comments on the impending social agitation.

   Films of this type have enjoyed U.S. success in the past ("Il Postino," "Life is Beautiful," "Belle Epoque," "Mediterraneo," among others), and it's not unlikely that "The Butterfly" will stroke a chord with that same audience. At the same time, the film offers little that audiences haven't already seen in countless other European and Asian imports, most of them considerably more engaging than this one. Scenes of children eavesdropping on young lovers and social dissidents being unfairly carted off by totalitarian thugs might once have carried weight in films of this sort, but their almost ritual recurrence in European productions of late has largely diminished any significant impact.

   On a more positive note, "The Butterfly" does feature a variety of fine performances, notably from veteran actor Fernando Fernan Gomez, whose honest and affecting turn as the teacher helps pull the film back, on several occasions, from the verge of bathos. It should be noted, too, that any perceived similarities to "Belle Epoque" are certainly not coincidental, thanks to the contributions of that film's screenwriter, Rafael Azcona, as a co-writer here.

   On the other hand, less demanding viewers of more desultory inclinations will probably find the film's superior technical credentials sufficient to recommend. Starring Uxia Blanco, Fernando Fernan Gomez, Manuel Lozano and Gonzalo M. Uriarte. Directed by Jose Luis Cuerda. Written by Rafael Azcona, Jose Luis Cuerda and Maneul Rivas. A Miramax release. Drama. Spanish-language; subtitled. Rated R for a strong sex scene. Running time: 96 min

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