La vendedora de rosas (1998)
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- The Rose Seller
- 116 min.
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For those interested in what become of the actors: http://exclusivas.canalrcn.com/galerias/articulo-galeria/que-paso-con-los-protagonistas-de-la-cinta-la-vendedora-de-rosas (In Spanish - you can google translate of course)
You know the kind of movies that make you uncomfortable watching them on your high definition TV set while sitting on your comfortable couch? You feel bad about the cool drink you got and the unnecessary snacks close at hand. That's the kind of movie La vendedora de rosas is. You want a dose of cold, hard reality? This is it.
At the same time, Víctor Gaviria's goal is not to be all preachy or anything. By using real street kids, thugs and regular people, Gaviria is allowing us to observe the actual situation for street kids in Columbia. Made in 1998, it's especially creepy knowing that nine actors in this movie died violent deaths since then. Not to mention that the main actress Lady Tabares is currently serving a prison sentence with her husband for having murdered a cab driver. Yikes!
Mónica (Lady Tabares) is a 13 year-old street kid who makes do by selling roses in clubs. She and some other street girls do other shady and questionable activities to make enough money to get by. A lot of this money is spent on glue it would seem which is used to get high. They are joined by 10 year-old Andrea (Mileider Gil) who is fed up of being beat by her mother and wants complete freedom. Taking place during Christmas time, they do the best they can to navigate the dangerous streets of nighttime Medellín.
The cinematography of La vendedora de rosas is rough and gritty. There are many hand held shots and cramped sequences taking place in tight alleyways. I'm sure that there are certain scenes done in public where people had no idea a movie was being filmed. There are a couple of more "filmy" shots in certain places but for the most part, Víctor Gaviria offers an unfiltered look into Medellín life.
What hits you when watching this film is how young the main characters are. How "female" they are and how vulnerable they are too. They're out at night on their own, trying to sell stuff while shady characters might as well be around every corner. They even get high and completely unaware of their surroundings. Most of the male characters have sex on their minds and see the girls as easy targets. On more than one occasion, there are some pretty creepy scenes of attempted child molestation even. Through all of this, it seems like the girls are forced to grow up really fast if they want to make it in the streets.
Interestingly enough. being in the streets for these kids seems to be a badge of honour at the same time. It's a matter of being respected it would seem. That's why they rebuff most of the support that comes their way. When one of the girls is taken back home by her father, she's looked at contemptuously. Judy (Marta Correa) is pretty much the ringleader for the gang and is totally content in making a quick buck so that she can party every night. Mónica goes along for the ride but you can tell that she desperately wishes to go back to her old life. That seems to be impossible so she takes solace in settling for her glue huffing.
La vendedora de rosas is a difficult movie to watch because of how real it feels. It makes you wonder how this sort of thing can exist in the world. Víctor Gaviria's use of non-actors was a good move. The stuff that these non-actors were directed to do? None of it was probably so different from what they would normally be doing anyway and that's scary. La vendedora de rosas is blunt and it's raw. Although it takes place around Christmas, don't expect any holiday cheer.
A miracle film. A must-see.
Read more in French on La Saveur des goûts amers.
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