La flor (Mariano Llinás, 2018)

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barryconvex
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Re: La flor (Mariano Llinás, 2018)

#51 Post by barryconvex » Mon Feb 24, 2020 3:58 am

What an awe inspiring and terrible undertaking this is, a new limb grown on the body of creativity, 120 years of film history hacked to bits with a fourteen hour machete and then abandoned, amateurish renderings of the all encompassing void of cinema, the multiverse as genre exercise, The Greatest Story Never Finished. I laughed as hard as I've ever laughed at any movie, I was moved to tears (by one of the great love stories), I was baffled, annoyed, bored, captivated, dumbstruck, awestruck, manic, depressive and long before I reached the halfway point my brain caught fire and melted into a puddle of goo. Don't listen to comparisons to Out 1 or any other work made by mere mortals, here's a movie with the infinite balls to be nothing like what's come before at the same it's exactly like what's come before. At least until it reaches the unclassifiable fourth episode, which is the moment the film strides out of the arena triumphantly carrying the calcified remains of mankind's best attempts at narrative storytelling and buries them in the foothills of Mount Llinas. This was also the moment I realized that every current director, including those I consider contemporary film's greatest artists, are all dilettantes compared to this guy. While I'm at it, heaping praise, I would like to nominate the four muses (Laura Paredes, Pilar Gamboa, Valeria Correa, Elisa Carricajo) who appear in all but one of La Flor's fourteen hours to be the democratic party's nominee for 2020 - they can be president, they can do anything, I know this because I just watched them do everything. And when I call them muses I don't mean the embodiment of some vague aura of inspiration sought by poets in the midst of a dry spell, I mean these are actual living, breathing muses, the goddesses of literature and the arts, four of the original nine sired by Zeus (or maybe Llinas) himself and now living and working in Argentina.

I don't know what else I can say this movie. It's not particularly difficult to summarize what's shown on screen but what it manages to crystallize and how it does it is something nebulous and altogether different and that is something I have difficulty describing. The word "experimental" comes up a lot in online write-ups and it's not a word I gravitate towards, especially when it's added to a movie this long. But "experimental"- a word that, in my view, usually carries sterile or clinical connotations- doesn't really fit within this effusive and sometimes sloppy environment. It may be applicable on a surface level but there isn't a second of ponderous heaviness despite the epic length and Llinas even appears on camera at around the thirteen hour mark to basically say, "thank you for making it this far."

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therewillbeblus
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Re: La flor (Mariano Llinás, 2018)

#52 Post by therewillbeblus » Mon Feb 24, 2020 12:13 pm

Lovely appreciation, glad you liked it so much! I'm waiting for Elisa Carricajo, who isn't often singled out as one of the best of the four (Pilar usually gets that honor) to do more as I'm just enamored with her. She and Laura Paredes are in Matías Piñeiro's Viola which was an interesting meta-Shakespeare quasi-adaptation that made my top ten for that list project.

This is as good a time to ask as any, but what do you, and others, find to be the funny parts and the gags that are revealed throughout the film in reference to one another? In a film like this, I always wonder what I'm missing and entertaining the possibility that what I think is so funny or amusing is not the same as another person. The fourth segment (which may be my favorite piece of cinema ever if taken alone, and somehow wows both Godard detractors and enthusiasts) makes me crack up, and I assume that's what most people are referring to, but I just don't know.

This is one of those films I'll be rewatching for the rest of my life, and far more frequently than most average-length movies.

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senseabove
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Re: La flor (Mariano Llinás, 2018)

#53 Post by senseabove » Mon Feb 24, 2020 1:10 pm

I think the single minuscule thing I laughed at most is that I swear one of the director's "NO!"s in the prologue to part 4 when he's off-camera talking to the four leads on-camera is dubbed from the sing-shouting by the male lead in part 2, but when I went back to see if I was crazy for having that impression, I couldn't verify it, so it's entirely possible it as an impressionistic imagination on my part...

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barryconvex
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Re: La flor (Mariano Llinás, 2018)

#54 Post by barryconvex » Tue Feb 25, 2020 12:49 am

And now we know what blu's avatar picture is taken from...Part four is as funny as anything I've ever seen. The opening sequence that sense referred to with the four leads dressed as Canadian mounties and native Americans as well as the section where the Director is writing suggestions from the crew ("books on internet" being my personal fave) in his notebook which are later badly deciphered by the investigator, that picture of the spider ("it looks like an ant"), the attempts to focus the camera...The "spy" section is more straight forward in its attempts to be humorous, attempts that are wildly successful I might add, but I responded more to part four. If any movie is worthy of being rewatched at regular intervals for the next fifty years, it's this one. As word gets out about this, it will increasingly be mentioned among the all time greats.

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Re: La flor (Mariano Llinás, 2018)

#55 Post by therewillbeblus » Tue Feb 25, 2020 10:10 pm

I hope you're right. The Godard-nodding tree commentary is perfect in so many ways, and despite everything being hysterical, I am so moved by the implications of the line about trees with and without a person there that I spoilered in my initial writeup, and find it to be just as humanist as the wallop climax at the end of the section, which is to say on an all-time list of validation and gratitude for people as unconditionally beautiful and the true marvels of this world.
SpoilerShow
For me there's something about the filmmaking troupe, especially the guy eating the bananas, flapping around as insane manchildren in 4b that kills me, and effectively completes the eclectic tally of humor after complex and intelligent gags to situational, self-reflexive, deadpan, farcical, all the way to ending at this encapsulation of slapstick physical comedy. Incredible.

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barryconvex
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Re: La flor (Mariano Llinás, 2018)

#56 Post by barryconvex » Wed Feb 26, 2020 2:10 am

The end of part four is one of the profound joys of any artistic medium, I've watched it five times now (I'm dying to know what the music is) and I want some of what Llinas had when he came up with that section. What you wrote in the spoiler sums up a lot of what makes the film so great and also why people shouldn't be put off by it. This is no self serious tome about the struggle of mankind or a heavy tract detailing some historical injustice with leaden solemnity, and it's definitely not some impenetrable, experimental screech fest, and while it is as meaningful as any film I can think of when considered as a whole, it's segments are sometimes gloriously silly. Because Llinas is secure enough in his own being as a director and a person to be sloppy, or goofy or immature he's turned something unwieldy into something welcoming.

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Re: La flor (Mariano Llinás, 2018)

#57 Post by Newsnayr » Wed Feb 26, 2020 5:00 pm

The music is from Ravel's Piano Concerto in G Major, and here's a very relevant and telling quote from Llinás's Cinema Scope interview (not the full answer but it's the last question asked).
Another influence, especially in this instance, are the films Rossellini made with Ingrid Bergman. And the end of Stromboli (1950), when Bergman—who we all know as Joan of Arc, and as Ilsa in Casablanca (1942), and the spy in Notorious (1946)—walks up the volcano, it’s like she’s carrying the entire story of cinema. And Rossellini knew that. In that moment, the marriage between traditions is quite touching. And of course it’s a fiction, but this is a moment for me when cinema shows its own history. Rossellini is shooting the story of Bergman’s character and the story of Bergman herself. It’s thrilling. So I felt at this point in our film we needed to do the same. These actresses are not Bergman—most of them had not even shot one picture. So we had to make their career. This picture would be their career. You’ve seen their lives, and through these images you now understand their process. It’s the moment when we, the filmmakers, have the right to make that sequence, and it’s the moment when you, the audience, realize that the whole film is a portrait.

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Re: La flor (Mariano Llinás, 2018)

#58 Post by Newsnayr » Wed Feb 26, 2020 5:03 pm

bad future wrote:
Thu Jan 23, 2020 11:30 pm
therewillbeblus wrote:
Thu Jan 23, 2020 4:54 pm
Melissa Anderson from ArtForum seems to be one of its biggest champions, I believe the only person who has cited it as the best film of last year (besides zedz and me).
senseabove wrote:
Thu Jan 23, 2020 5:54 pm
I don't see that Anderson has written about it anywhere, though, beyond ranking it highly? Maybe it's forthcoming in 4Columns...
I’ve seen two others list it as their favorite of 2019 (metacritic’s annual roundup of top 10’s is always pretty extensive and, combined with a ctrl-F, pretty useful!) and both have written about it: Ryan Swen from Film Stage (at his personal site) and Joshua Brunsting at Criterioncast.

Not sure if it’s the kind of analysis you’re looking for (I’m only like halfway through the former one) but wanted to share!
Also, thanks bad future for linking to my piece!

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Re: La flor (Mariano Llinás, 2018)

#59 Post by therewillbeblus » Wed Feb 26, 2020 5:27 pm

Newsnayr wrote:
Wed Feb 26, 2020 5:00 pm
The music is from Ravel's Piano Concerto in G Major, and here's a very relevant and telling quote from Llinás's Cinema Scope interview (not the full answer but it's the last question asked).
Another influence, especially in this instance, are the films Rossellini made with Ingrid Bergman. And the end of Stromboli (1950), when Bergman—who we all know as Joan of Arc, and as Ilsa in Casablanca (1942), and the spy in Notorious (1946)—walks up the volcano, it’s like she’s carrying the entire story of cinema. And Rossellini knew that. In that moment, the marriage between traditions is quite touching. And of course it’s a fiction, but this is a moment for me when cinema shows its own history. Rossellini is shooting the story of Bergman’s character and the story of Bergman herself. It’s thrilling. So I felt at this point in our film we needed to do the same. These actresses are not Bergman—most of them had not even shot one picture. So we had to make their career. This picture would be their career. You’ve seen their lives, and through these images you now understand their process. It’s the moment when we, the filmmakers, have the right to make that sequence, and it’s the moment when you, the audience, realize that the whole film is a portrait.
He also goes more into it in the Q&A I linked to on the first page, which is just terrific. I'll leave it here again:
I don’t remember exactly what he says but in this interview Llinás insinuates that he had romantic relationships with a few, if not all, of the actresses and that he ended up marrying one (!), though I’ve had a hard time finding out more info elsewhere on the internet. This only adds to the love he expresses for them in this film of course, as if there could possibly be more layers

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Newsnayr
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Re: La flor (Mariano Llinás, 2018)

#60 Post by Newsnayr » Thu Feb 27, 2020 3:39 am

therewillbeblus wrote:
Wed Feb 26, 2020 5:27 pm
I don’t remember exactly what he says but in this interview Llinás insinuates that he had romantic relationships with a few, if not all, of the actresses and that he ended up marrying one (!), though I’ve had a hard time finding out more info elsewhere on the internet. This only adds to the love he expresses for them in this film of course, as if there could possibly be more layers
Yes, he's married to Laura Paredes; in the final episode she's visibly pregnant with his child.

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Re: La flor (Mariano Llinás, 2018)

#61 Post by therewillbeblus » Thu Feb 27, 2020 8:56 am

Thanks, I mean I saw she was pregnant but so was Valeria Correa and didn’t immediately connect that he was a father. How did you find the information?

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senseabove
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Re: La flor (Mariano Llinás, 2018)

#62 Post by senseabove » Sat Mar 14, 2020 2:28 pm

Wisely, Grasshopper has made this available for streaming again while everyone’s isolated: https://grasshopperfilm.com/film/la-flor/

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barryconvex
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Re: La flor (Mariano Llinás, 2018)

#63 Post by barryconvex » Thu Mar 26, 2020 10:25 am

Newsnayr wrote:
Wed Feb 26, 2020 5:00 pm
The music is from Ravel's Piano Concerto in G Major, and here's a very relevant and telling quote from Llinás's Cinema Scope interview (not the full answer but it's the last question asked).
Another influence, especially in this instance, are the films Rossellini made with Ingrid Bergman. And the end of Stromboli (1950), when Bergman—who we all know as Joan of Arc, and as Ilsa in Casablanca (1942), and the spy in Notorious (1946)—walks up the volcano, it’s like she’s carrying the entire story of cinema. And Rossellini knew that. In that moment, the marriage between traditions is quite touching. And of course it’s a fiction, but this is a moment for me when cinema shows its own history. Rossellini is shooting the story of Bergman’s character and the story of Bergman herself. It’s thrilling. So I felt at this point in our film we needed to do the same. These actresses are not Bergman—most of them had not even shot one picture. So we had to make their career. This picture would be their career. You’ve seen their lives, and through these images you now understand their process. It’s the moment when we, the filmmakers, have the right to make that sequence, and it’s the moment when you, the audience, realize that the whole film is a portrait.
Thank you News and sorry for the late reply...

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zedz
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Re: La flor (Mariano Llinás, 2018)

#64 Post by zedz » Sat Mar 28, 2020 10:12 pm

The evenings of our first week in isolation were devoted to La Flor, so here are some further episode by episode comments. After being a little skeptical after Episode One, my wife fell deeply, permanently in love with the film as soon as the scorpions appeared, as I'm sure many of us did and will do.

LA FLOR Episode 1

Rewatching this, the first is clearly the weakest segment, and it’s hard not to see it as a feint on the part of Llinas, as it’s by far the most narratively straightforward and rooted in a recognizable genre of all the episodes. If nothing else, it sets us up for the delightful, dizzying genre digression of Episode 2. It’s also formally the roughest of the six episodes, with jittery camerawork, digital artifacts and so forth, as if it were a quick and dirty horror movie. The shallow focus aesthetic which is explored in different ways throughout La Flor is at its most primitive here, and it seems a little like an arbitrary stylistic choice until it pays off magnificently in a single long shot, as Valeria Correa backs away from the focal plane, into the darkness, and her face transforms through the simple loss of focus into an approximation of that of the mummy.

There are some neat narrative elaborations at play here, though they’re less apparent than the tricks and teases of the other stories as the dominant narrative is so direct. There’s the unresolved mystery of just what is going on with Elisa Carracajo’s character and her presumed sexual / psychological trauma, let alone how that would have – we assume – played into the central horror plot. There’s also the delightful juxtaposition of two fluid long takes of the same sequence of professional encounters, first with Carracajo’s hapless uncertainty, then with Laura Paredes authoritative problem solving. A brilliant way to deftly and swiftly sketch two contrasting characters in a completely natural way. And that character dynamic will be brilliantly flipped between these two actors in the following episode.

I find Episode 1 a lot of fun, but it’s almost deliberately tentative given how the narratives of the subsequent ones explode like fireworks.

LA FLOR Episode 2

Completely on its own terms, this episode would qualify as one of my favourite films of the last decade, and it’s not even my second favourite section of La Flor. The narrative challenge Llinas sets himself here isn’t just the one of interruption (how to completely involve an audience in a story that they know ahead of time will not be resolved), but one of inaction.

He does it so expertly that I didn’t even realise he was doing it at all until a rewatch, but practically all the action of this substantial, intricately plotted episode is delivered as exposition. It’s a film about people explaining what’s already happened and what’s going to happen. The only exceptions – i.e. the scenes where the narrative advances in action on screen rather than dialogue – as far as I can see are the Vertigo-like wordless tailing sequence (in which the action is, to say the least, opaque, and has to be subsequently explained to us anyway) and, crucially, the various performances of “I Am the Flame”, where the action is subtextual and only really becomes clear to us with the climactic rendition. It’s almost as if Llinas is taking the idea of the musical to a kind of extreme, wherein the musical numbers are the only scenes that advance the plot in terms of action.

So how does Llinas make an almost entirely reported plot compelling? Fundamentally, he leans heavily on brilliant performances by his four leads, who animate their very different characters superbly. (This is the episode where the actresses really take charge of the film. Even though they were just about the only characters in Episode 1, the way they dominate a narrative involving more substantial male characters really highlights their agency here.) Further, it’s good dialogue, that reveals character, character relations and subtextual nuances right alongside the big plot points. It’s also very carefully constructed to maximise intrigue by drip-feeding information, or by creating and resolving puzzles by providing changing perspectives on events (the multiple versions of the meeting of Ricky and Vittoria that we hear about are the most obvious example of this). That elegance of construction applies both to the interiors of various plot strands as well as the macro- level, when we’re blindsided by the wild left-turn the narrative takes midway through, or when the two main plots finally collide is a most satisfying moment of deliberate frustration.

Llinas is also cueing us into some of the self-reflexive games that will overtake the film later on, as in Andrea Nigro’s great speech about how she knows she’s not the heroine of the story and not even (in a very pleasing moment of character insight) the enemy of the heroine.

LA FLOR Episode 3

We watched this episode over three nights, and I have to say it worked much better in one big day-long chunk, mostly because of the gloriously perverse accelerating / decelerating structure, with the approach to the film’s climax become more and more urgent (THREE HOURS BEFORE THEY COME TO KILL THEM) at the same time as the flashback interruptions become longer and longer, till we’re actually watching a series of mini-movies in between the fragments of the main plot.

For all the structural games and narrative detours, this is – along with episode one - the most straightforward of the episodes. It largely remains within a recognizable genre (the spy film - although it wanders all over the place within that genre) and has a clear master narrative (with a lot of fussing, fritzing and fiddling in the background). There’s not much plot discussion needed, and much of the fun is watching that plot unfold anyway.

This is also the episode where the actresses are at the peak of their mastery. Our four stars are together as a team for most of the time, and they’re even enhanced by a quartet of doppelgangers. Although the narrative is one of sinister men commanding, manipulating and betraying women, the story as it unfolds is one of female rebellion, where the male mastery proves to be illusory and the women are the ones with true agency. Which sets us up nicely for the radical confusions of Episode 4.

LA FLOR Episode 4

I’m really going to have to limit myself to vague generalities for this episode (and probably beyond), because this one really does rely on surprise and awareness of everything that’s come before.

Second time around it was just as delightful and hilarious as my first viewing. It synthesizes many elements from the rest of the film along with early Greenaway, late Godard and plenty of Ruiz at the height of his deadpan ridiculousness.

The resolution to the director’s impasse is so convoluted, perfect and ingenious that I’m compelled to exclaim “Eureka!” right along with him.

This time through, I got an idea of another solution to one of the film’s mysteries, which is, of course, even weirder than the problem initially posed:
SpoilerShow
The director has – by witchcraft, naturally - either been transformed into, or swapped places with, the historical Casanova – i.e. the mysterious archaic Italian in the asylum who’s irresistible to women.

And that breathtaking closing sequence is even more poignant on a rewatch
SpoilerShow
because we now know that this is the last clear glimpse we will have of the four female stars, as they’re elided from Episode 5 and obscured in Episode 6.
LA FLOR Episode 5

I think I might have to spoiler this completely for the uninitiated.
SpoilerShow
Llinas’ deviously fulfils and flouts his opening promises by offering up as the only episode “with a beginning and an ending” a remake of a famously incomplete film with no middle, which is additionally shorn of its original ending (though he includes the original soundtrack of that ending in the middle of the otherwise silent film.)

This episode is in obvious ways the odd one out, but I like the way it operates on a structural level. It’s an answer to the concerns of dominance played out comically in Episode 4; it’s a wholly visual episode in contrast to its symmetrical partner Episode 2, which was primarily verbal. It begins an exploration of the cinematic past that continues in the final episode (and indeed extends back to the prehistory of cinema.)
LA FLOR Episode 6

This is such a great, mysterious and unexpected way to conclude the film, with the dispersal of the actresses into a vast landscape (and, thanks to the unusual technique used, into the screen). It’s melancholy and joyous, as is the extended coda which I find just as beautiful and emotional as the rest of the episode.

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Re: La flor (Mariano Llinás, 2018)

#65 Post by therewillbeblus » Sat Mar 28, 2020 11:10 pm

Great thoughts zedz. The more I reflect on the structural choice of ending each of the first three stories in media res, the more I think the objective is that in proactively feeding us this expectation we are not deprived so much as granted the space to admire the content we do get, which is focused on the performers and significantly their mystery. My second viewing really solidified the strengths of the first two parts because the curiosities of the plot are infused in the vessels of the actresses who respond to them, creating riddles personified that stack upon one another until we know them inside out not only through their diverse role shifting but their own cumulative enigmatic identities becoming familiar and known over time, just like any relationship that transforms interest in thin understanding and objectification into transparency and humanism.

Because there is no micro-narrative catharsis in Elisa Carracajo’s arc in episode 1, there is a stronger emphasis on her emotional and existential mystery; and because we have no idea what the fuck is up with that inebriated scorpion-trip boat dream, or what the cult wants when they come back, we must bask in the menace and the obsession with achieving knowledge and power. The joke is that we will not be afforded any of that in the traditional sense, prevented mastery in that story just as Carracajo’s gang doesn’t achieve their control before the cut to black. The very idea of living forever is thematic because when we do get to the crescendo at the end of episode 4, these women have been afforded the opportunity to be known and to live forever, through a layered journey of experiencing their emotional and behavioral ranges as well as physical and existential growth through role changes and life experience, just like all of us do, and just like Ingrid Bergman conveyed for Llinas as she ascended the volcano in Stromboli. However, this immortality is not derived from the tangible as the cult attempts, and as viewers are taught, to access; but through another means, one that is not unique in a spiritual sense but entirely in the specifics of Llinas' complexly stratified execution.

The micro-catharsis then comes from the details and pleasures of the journey, and in turn become even more potent in enjoyment through the comprehensive macro-plan of cinematic cosmos that coats and reinforces each gag while revealing new ones. Only looking back on the film in hindsight do I see that opening shot of Elisa Carracajo in the car with that ominous music blasting through my soundspeaker as both hilarious and cryptic in its signified artifice reminiscent of Manoel de Oliveira. Life is funny, frightening, and full of unsolvable mystery, but it’s the shifting of perspective as we trudge through it that informs our ability to reinterpret our subjective realities, philosophical positions and comprehension of others. These actresses are beautiful in every sense of the word, and the film helps us see and feel the depths of that love from as many angles as a film can, thereby extending the passion to cinema as an art form and reflected back to ourselves as participants traveling through time in this adventure and our own; embracing the enigmas that provide the keys to experiencing life’s greatest gifts through continual recontextualization and mindful awareness of the sublime, which is the best answer we can get to transcendent rhetorical questions. This film builds to a climax of intimacy few, if any, others have ever matched, and in the process creates new pathways to recognize such intimacies in the often overlooked details. How can you assemble a more effective piece of art than that?
Last edited by therewillbeblus on Sat Mar 28, 2020 11:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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senseabove
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Re: La flor (Mariano Llinás, 2018)

#66 Post by senseabove » Sat Mar 28, 2020 11:43 pm

zedz wrote:
Sat Mar 28, 2020 10:12 pm
And that breathtaking closing sequence is even more poignant on a rewatch
SpoilerShow
because we now know that this is the last clear glimpse we will have of the four female stars, as they’re elided from Episode 5 and obscured in Episode 6.
Well this gave me giddy chills as well as twice-baked spoiler angst because now I'm sad I didn't get to have that realization on my own eventual rewatch...

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