VLAFF: Style dwarfs story in Sadourni's Butterflies

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      Sadourni's Butterflies is one for the pleasure rather than the logic centres of the brain. You have to go the extra mile to figure out what's going on in this hyper-stylized tale of a circus dwarf trying to (literally) transform himself, but it almost doesn't matter next to the film's aesthetic achievements.

      Shot over 12 years by first time director Dario Nardi (which adds a real buzz as actor Cristian Medrano ages right before our eyes), the Argentine film exists in its own space somewhere between silent expressionism and our shiny digital now. And it's ravishing. If Nardi never quite finds the otherness that springs so naturally from the work of someone like Guy Maddin, there's still much to admire.

      The film's opening sequence—where we learn how the cuckolded Sadourni became a double murderer—is a self-contained masterpiece of bravura storytelling. Yet it's a modest scene midway through that has the bigger emotional payload, in which Sadourni dubs orgasm sounds onto a porno flick, accompanied by the film's love interest, Alexia (Antonella Costa).

      Her smile as they finish speaks volumes. When we briefly glimpse the dirty movie, and it looks an awful lot like Murnau's Nosferatu, Nardi manages a kind of inspired, multilayered, almost casual weirdness that hits so much harder than all the elaborately strange compositions that preceded it.

      Sadourni's Butterflies screens at the Cinematheque on Monday (September 2) at 9:15 p.m. and Sunday (September 8) at 1:00 p.m.