Difficult Loves

Notes on Raya Martin’s Buenas Noches Espana

It tends to blur in my mind now: what happened and did not. the streets for the first time, the days, the nights, the sky above me, the stones stretching beyond. I seem to remember looking up a lot, as if searching the sky for some lack, some surplus, something that made it different from other skies, as if the sky could explain the things I was seeing around me. …

After much careful study, I can safely report that the sky here is the same sky as the one above you.

Paul Auster, “In the Country of Last Things”

In a short address before Buenas Noches España, Raya Martin apologized in advance to those who were “sensitive to light or sound”. Apparently an apology wasn’t enough to keep people from leaving not less than ten minutes into the film. By the end, approximately 60 people had walked out of the theatre for (what could only be presumed to be) “various reasons”, sensitivity to light and sound no doubt being among them.

The synopsis from the program of the 10th Spanish Film Festival described Buenas Noches Espana as the story of a couple that mysteriously teleported from contemporary Spain to the Philippines under colonial rule. Instead, what could be passed as a plot gave us two people taking the scenic route to the Museum of Fine Art in Bilbao, where they look at studies from Juan Luna’s Spolarium. Quick cuts and repetitions layered what was otherwise a spare (and arguably absent) narrative, and whatever coherence can be derived from the film had to be picked out from beneath and entire silo of edits and a droning score provided by Owel Alvero and Pat Sarabia.

To top it all off, it is impossible to distinguish if what you are watching is in black and white, or color. Of course this matters granted the kind of mood evoked by either option; but by negating either option, Buenas Noches maintains its status as an object. Light and sound, check; plot, incidental. Allowing that blank to be filled in by whatever is being evoked.
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