What color is the universe? Beige, according to one of the many eccentric characters of “La Luna en Botella. This jolly little question is a snippet that fits neatly into the film’s quirky script, which is punctuated with the lighter side of existential questions.
The main character Z tells the tale of his grandfather, who was on his deathbed for 40 years until one day, feeling better, he decided to take a stroll. Yet fate, as we see in “La Luna en Botella, works in mysterious ways, and as would be the grandfather’s luck, an ill-placed flowerpot falls on his head killing him instantly. “It must be quite romantic to be killed by a flower, utters his companion.
Lighthearted existentialism and absurdity are the two main ingredients for director Grojo’s debut film. Set in a French café and with clownish looking Dominique Pinon (you may know him from Amelie) playing the owner, “La Luna en Botella sails along two threads. One is Z, a ghost writer (named so as his stories always end in ‘Z’) waiting to publish his own novel, and the other is Pascal, café owner and one-time circus act. His friends are convinced he was the clown, but later it is revealed that he was in fact the strong man.
Things are plodding on as usual in the little cafe: some flirtation between Z and waitress, and impromptu entrances from a very boisterous circus act infuriating Pascal, who would rather forget his past.
But in the center of town, the circus building is about to be destroyed, and moving into the 21st century, a giant postmodern sculpture has been planned: Eric Klum’s giant egg, “which proves how fragile we are in modern life.
Enter Irene and Kurt, the tall, smooth and slightly sinister cabaret act, who for all the incongruity of appearances, were also Pascal’s former lovers.
Complete with a protest plan to sabotage the giant egg, they also turn Pascal’s neat little world upside down. Through flashback scenes, shot and delivered in idiosyncratically Euro-whimsy style, the audience discovers the secret behind this odd little threesome.
“La Luna en Botella is a story about self-discovery, changing one’s fate and the rejection of corporate control of art. It’s also a story about a story.
Z’s internal narration merges with real events as he sits in the cafe contemplating his fellow customers and searching for a muse. It’s a well used technique in European cinema, but Grojo coordinates it perfectly with the nostalgic hilarity of a circus act.
Accompanied by cabaret swingers to wild accordion dances, the plot unravels into a climax of birth and death before lyrically subsiding. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Spanish cinema, “La Luna en Botella is a perfect route into a cinematic genre that never fails to cast a smile. cast a smile.