The Disappearance of Garcia Lorca
Directed by Marcos Zurinaga. Starring Andy Garcia, Edward James Olmos, Esai Morales, Giancarlo Giannini, Jeroen Krabbe, Miguel Ferrer. (1997, R, 109 min.)
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Sept. 12, 1997
This will serve for many as their introduction to the work and short, tragic life of Spanish poet and playwright Garcia Lorca, who was summarily executed under less-than-clear circumstances in 1936 during the Spanish Civil War. Although the film was originally intended as a vehicle for Raul Julia (and is dedicated to the late actor), Garcia stepped in to play the part of the beloved artist when Julia passed away. The film is presented as a series of flashbacks focusing on Lorca's life and the turbulent effects he had on the Spanish-speaking world (and indeed the literary world at large) and those around him. As a boy, Ricardo Fernandez (Morales) met the poet backstage at the premiere of his expressionist masterpiece Yerma in 1936. Since then, Ricardo has been haunted by the magical work of the man and the bitter legacy left after his death. Ricardo has since moved to Puerto Rico with his father (Eusebio Lazaro), but in 1954 he returns to his hometown of Granada to unearth the mystery of who killed Lorca, obsessively tracking down every lead and ignoring the blatant fact that pursuing such avenues could very well get him killed in Franco's modern Spain. Lorca may be long gone, but his enemies -- and those who still fear the revolutionary tenor of his work -- are not. Along his search for truth, Ricardo meets up with all manner of weasels, including the disheveled cabbie Centeno (Giannini), who may or may not be tailing him for the government, and the wealthy Colonel Aguirre (Krabbe), with whose daughter he manages to fall in love. Granadine offical Robert Lozano (Olmos) apparently does everything in his power to put an end to Ricardo's relentless search, even going so far as to have him beaten and left for dead. Like any good obsessive worth his salt, however, Ricardo refuses to give in to the mounting pressures around him, even though it may destroy not only himself but many, many others as well. Zurinaga does an admirable job attempting to tie together all the loose ends that surrounded, and continue to surround, the death of Lorca, but his film, for all of its winning performances and beautiful camerawork, feels oveloaded and ponderous. It's as if, in trying to bring this wondrous Spanish poet to the screen, much of the simple essence of the man has been left behind. To be sure, Garcia makes an engaging Lorca -- the film opens with an epic reading of his masterwork “The Goring and the Death,” about the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War; it's a relentlessly touching scene -- but somewhere along the line, Zurinaga loses sight of his goal and lets the film ramble on, nearly as obsessive as its protagonist. You're never quite sure why Lorca died, or exactly what solid threat he posed to Franco and his minions. Truth, justice, and poetry make for odd bedfellows during a revolution, but even stranger ones in the retelling.