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    Wing of truth

    "Butterfly" is the beautifully told story of a boy's often-happy and sometimes jarring childhood in Civil War-era Spain.


    There are two remarkable images in the Spanish film "Butterfly" ("La Lengua de las Mariposas"). The first is of a young Chinese woman running through a field — a simple, transitory moment filled with fervent beauty. The second is a slow-motion shot of a young boy chasing after a truck while hurling rocks and epithets at the downtrodden people inside.

    Original title: La Lengua de las Mariposas.
    Directed by: Jose Luis Cuerda.
    Written by: Rafael Azcona, Jose Luis Cuerda, Manuel Rivas.
    Cast: Fernando Fernan Gomez, Manuel Lozano, Uxia Blanco, Gonzalo M. Uriarte, Alexis de los Santos, Jesus Castejon, Guillermo Toledo, Elena Fernandez, Tamar Novas, Tatan, Roberto Vidal, Celso Parada, Celso Bugallo, Tucho Lagares, Milagros Jimenez.
    Cinematography: Javier G. Salmones.
    In Spanish with English subtitles.

    Related links: All of David N. Butterworth's reviews at Rotten Tomatoes
    Both images are related in that they deal with loss — Jose Luis Cuerda's film is filled with easy metaphors, as subtle and delicate as a butterfly's wing.

    The Chinese woman is running to wave goodbye to a young saxophone player, Andres, who briefly visited her island home and moved her with his innocence and caring. In the film's more potent closing scene, Andres' younger brother Moncho runs with tears in his eyes as his cries of "atheist" and "murderer" turn to more genuine remembrances of his teacher, Don Gregorio, one of many republican sympathizers now being carted away.

    The year is 1936 and Spain is a country divided by the growing Fascist movement.

    "Butterfly" describes this time of emotional upheaval through the eyes of an eight-year-old boy (Manuel Lozano, whose resemblance to Mark Wahlberg is uncanny and whose outstanding performance as Moncho belies his years). Moncho, an asthmatic, lives with his parents and his older brother (Alexis de los Santos) and, as the film opens, is being taken to school for the first time. Having learned that the schoolmaster Don Gregorio strikes his boys, Moncho is, not surprisingly, fearful, but Don Gregorio turns out to be anything but an insensitive brute, taking the little Swallow (Moncho's nickname) under his wing and teaching him about nature, bugs, and the tongues of butterflies.

    Don Gregorio is played by Fernando Fernan Gomez, a veteran Spanish actor whose on-screen performances span more than 170 films. He's wonderful, like a cozy old grandfather whose lap you wish you could curl up onto.

    Cuerda cleverly relegates the political turmoil to the background so that the overriding feel of "Butterfly" is a heartwarming coming-of-age tale set during a difficult time rather than a movie directly focused on the Spanish Civil War. This allows the director to shape the story with humor and fondness as we witness the two brothers just being boys amid a lot of beautiful settings. But the effect of the country's changing allegiances is very much there in the faces and actions of the Galician townsfolk — the rich landowner who attempts to bribe Don Gregorio with a pair of capons so that his son can receive some personal tutoring, and the priest who airs his disapproval to Moncho's father now that Moncho's schooling has taken away his desire to become an altar boy.

    And the impact comes to a head in that final, powerful scene, when Moncho is forced to publicly renounce his teacher — a man who has loved him and cared for him and opened his eyes to the beauty all around him — in order to protect his family's true loyalties.

    JULY 8, 2000

    Reader comments on Butterfly:

  • Butterfly   from Debbie M, Dec 6, 2000
  • Beautiful   from Brendan Willy, Dec 14, 2000
  • a civil war from a different view   from Eva, Mar 5, 2002
  • Re: a civil war from a different view   from Khanh, Mar 11, 2002
  • Re: a civil war from a different view   from Mario, Apr 25, 2004
  • Movie Review   from Ashley Steward, Mar 8, 2002
  • Good Movie!   from Huy, Mar 11, 2002
  • Butterfly   from Shinae Kim, Mar 11, 2002
  • Butterfly   from Alina, Mar 11, 2002
  • Comments   from Huong, Mar 11, 2002
  • Comments   from Tsai, Mar 12, 2002
  • Rated 4.899 star   from David S., Mar 12, 2002
  • Butterfly   from Regina Paige, Mar 12, 2002
  • Great Movie   from Wayne (Central-262), Mar 12, 2002
  • Comments   from Vu Nguyen, Mar 12, 2002
  • standing up for what you believe in   from Pauline Kahney, Jul 27, 2004
  • Comments - Anthony V. 262!!!   from Anthony V., Mar 14, 2002
  • Mariposa   from Raul Antonio Garcia, May 27, 2002
  • One of the best films ever made   from K.Yinger, May 29, 2004
  • all for a lack of reason and compassion   from Alexandra Peixoto, Jan 27, 2005
  • Re: all for a lack of reason and compassion   from Harsha, Aug 7, 2007
  • Beautiful Movie   from Gena Padilla, Feb 18, 2005
  • La lengua de las mariposas   from Alisa Noble, Sep 26, 2005
  • Butterfly   from Ryan Phillips, Sep 28, 2005
  • Butterfly Movie review   from Eleanor Coffey, May 23, 2006
  • Butterfly   from Teresa, Jul 3, 2007
  • Butterfly is beautiful!   from Sarah, Aug 1, 2007

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