Patience was no doubt required of the Three Wise Men as they made their way toward Bethlehem, and the same will be required of auds who seek out "Birdsong."

Patience was no doubt required of the Three Wise Men as they made their way toward Bethlehem, and the same will be required of auds who seek out “Birdsong,” Albert Serra’s minimalist reinterpretation of the Magi’s journey. Hushed, contemplative but often quite droll experiment offers beautifully sculpted images on a black-and-white canvas across its sometimes hypnotic, sometimes tedious runtime. Like Serra’s Don Quixote riff “Honor de cavalleria,” which also bowed in the Directors’ Fortnight at Cannes, pic won’t see much action beyond fests and a few offshore playdates.

Three robed men (all played by thesps with the first name Lluis) tread very, very slowly across a craggy landscape, bickering comically over how they should proceed in their search for the Christ Child. Grounded in desert dunes and rocky ruins, pic reps a profound attempt to locate the spiritual within the material. There’s no disputing Serra’s remarkable eye (some brief underwater footage is especially mesmerizing), though most shots, such as one that reduces the men to specks on the horizon, are sustained well past the endurance point. Absent any unnatural light, much less a guiding star, nighttime shots are impenetrable.

Birdsong

Spain

Production

An Andergraun Films, Eddie Saeta production, in association with Televisio de Catalunya, with the participation of Capricci Films. (International sales: Capricci Films, Nantes, France.) Produced by Montse Triola, Lluis Minarro. Directed, written by Albert Serra.

Crew

Camera (B&W), Neus Olle, Jimmy Gimferrer; editors, Angel Martin, Serra; music, El cant dels ocells, Pau Casals; production designer, Jimmy Gimferrer; sound, Joan Pons, Jordi Ribas. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (Directors' Fortnight), May 20, 2008. Catalan, Hebrew dialogue. Running time: 96 MIN.

With

Lluis Carbo, Lluis Serrat Batlle, Lluis Serrat Masanellas, Montse Triola, Mark Peranson, Victoria Aragones.

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