Mighty Flash

Mighty Flash ★★½

[5]

Occasionally you come across a film that is undeniably impressive but not what you'd call "good." Destello Bravío is extremely auteur-forward; there's nary a shot or a scene that does not aggressively stamp itself with a clear authorial vision. When you consider that this is Rodríguez's debut feature, the filmmaker's clear sense of purpose is all the more notable. Destello Bravío employs space and framing to etch its overall message quite clearly on the screen. Whether in nearly-empty village squares, abandoned roads, or tightly packed, single-gender interiors, there's never any doubt that everything we're seeing and hearing is the direct expression of an organizing directorial intelligence.

And yet -- you knew that there was an "and yet" coming -- Destello Bravío frequently feels directionless. Part of this has to do with a sense that individual scenes are interchangeable, and could be presented in any order. There's nothing wrong with modular construction, of course. But Destello Bravío gives the sense that Rodríguez expects us to track specific characters and locales across the running time. While there are a few people who are subtly pushed into the foreground -- Isa and Cita in particular -- they often fade into the overall field of detachable parts, some relatively realistic, others assertively allegorical.

The few reviews I've read cite David Lynch as a touchstone for Destello Bravío, but that's a superficial comparison. Really, it seems to me that Rodríguez is doing Roy Andersson incorrectly. Destello Bravío shares with Andersson's films that sense of modularity and monstration over narrative progression, and the idea that all of these relatively autonomous components eventually add up to a global theme, albeit one viewed from multiple perspectives. And there's no missing Rodríguez's theme, although it does take a while to come into focus.

Set in the mostly-rural Spanish district of Tierra de Barros, Destello Bravío depicts a universe where all the young people have moved on, and seemingly taken narrative development with them. So what remains are men and women of a certain age, with men feebly trying to maintain the traditional prerogatives of patriarchy, and the women asserting their own desires in more and more feverish ways. But whether the women are in control (e.g. a polite luncheon that becomes increasingly orgiastic), or the men are slapping them down (as when Cita is sexually humiliated by a group of male acquaintances), nothing really encourages empathy or emotional engagement. Instead Destello Bravío plods along, setting forth a thesis about gender roles in crisis. It's deftly controlled, but not especially enlightening.

Also, there's nowhere to really remark upon this in the review, but I have to say it. The sound editing in this film drove me up the fucking wall. Rodríguez uses splodgy audio bridges, apparently to provide the coherent linkages that the film lacks on its own. It only highlights the problem.