“The Life Sublime” is a tone poem as much as a work of nonfiction, an evocative exploration of the qualities that distinguish Spain’s north and south. Lyrical in a more broadly focused way than helmer Daniel V. Villamediana’s debut, “The Blue Bull,” the pic follows Victor J. Vazquez’s search for his late grandfather’s secrets, taking him from Castile’s Valladolid to the southern cities of Cadiz and Seville. Discussions of place, politics and history loom large, and some scenes could use trimming, but Villamediana’s distinctive sensibility should spike interest among niche fest crowds.
Vazquez knew his grandfather, nicknamed “El Cuco,” as a happy but reserved man who maintained a silence about his past — unsurprising given the Spanish Civil War, followed by the Franco years. He sets out to trace El Cuco’s mysterious journey south in the late 1930s, stopping to reflect alone or with friends on what differentiates Andalusia from Castile. Discussions about the lure of the past, or anarchy vs. populism, ultimately take a back seat to gorgeously lensed still and traveling shots of green fields and sun-dried pastures, or meditations on the quality of the summer light in Cadiz.