Brimming with ideas it fails to galvanize, "The Blind Sunflowers" reps an unhappy swan song for late, great screenwriter Rafael Azcona.

Brimming with ideas it fails to galvanize, “The Blind Sunflowers” reps an unhappy swan song for late, great screenwriter Rafael Azcona. As a portrait of the dullness of life in provincial postwar Spain, the pic is fine, but much of that dullness spills over into the treatment, which fails to do justice to Alberto Mendez’s dark novel. Persuasive playing by the reliable Maribel Verdu and attractive visuals are unlikely to make this late August release bloom offshore.

In northwest Spain, 1940, trainee priest Salvador (Raul Arevalo) has returned from the war, with some of his beliefs in tatters. One of his pupils is Lorenzo (Roger Princep, “The Orphanage”). Lorenzo’s father, Ricardo (Javier Camara), a left-wing teacher, is in hiding in the family home, along with Lorenzo’s mother, Elena (Verdu), and sister, Elenita (Irene Escolar), pregnant by Lalo (Martin Rivas). Early on, Lalo and Elenita make an unlikely bid for freedom in Portugal; but the pic’s dramatic focus is all on Salvador as he clumsily pursues Elena, believing her to be a widow. Top-notch cast feels wasted, with most of the content rerun from previous Civil War dramas. However, period detail is exemplary.

The Blind Sunflowers

Spain

Production

An Alta Films release of a Sogecine, A Modino, EOPC, Labarouta production, with participation of TVE, Canal Plus. (International sales: Sogepaq, Madrid.) Produced by Fernando Bovaira, Jose Luis Cuerda, Emiliano Otegui. Directed by Jose Luis Cuerda. Screenplay, Rafael Azcona, Cuerda, based on the novel by Alberto Mendez.

Crew

Camera (color), Hans Burmann; editor, Nacho Ruiz Capillas; music, Lucio Godoy; art director, Balter Gallart. Reviewed at Cines Princesa, Madrid, Aug. 29, 2008. (Also in Toronto Film Festival -- Contemporary World Cinema.) Original title: Los girasoles ciegos. Running time: 98 MIN.

Cast

With: Maribel Verdu, Javier Camara, Raul Arevalo, Jose Angel Egido, Roger Princep, Irene Escolar, Martin Rivas.
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