What if the terrible power of time’s passage were represented by a big ol’ demon fish? So asks Red Moon Tide, the bastard love child of Cemetery of Splendor and A Ghost Story. Its ideas are many but the budget is quite small. And it’s a singular piece of filmmaking like not much else streaming right now.
Director/writer/cinematographer/editor/seemingly everything Lois Patiño displays a confident, focused brand of storytelling from the very jump and the atmosphere never lets up for a single moment. A dark, crimson haze descends over a seaside Galician village. Voices of ghostly inhabitants decrying various, worldly ills or the loss of loved ones ring out in a parade of otherwise silent and still landscape shots. It’s gorgeous, and haunting, and inviting, and sad all at once. A demon from the sea seems to be the cause of this trouble, and so a band of witches venture out to set things right. If, like me, you think 85 minutes of ponderous walks through nature while stationary specters lament the many existential ills we mortals face sounds like an absolute blast, then congratulations! Your next moviegoing experience awaits in the liminal space between slow cinema and arthouse horror, and it’s wonderful. This isn’t to say Red Moon Tide is without fault, though – a movie consisting almost entirely of motionless figures draped in table cloths set against gorgeous, seaside backdrops monologuing at length about time and death isn’t the easiest feature to sustain – and I can’t help but wonder if this might work better as a short film given how it ultimately drags a bit through the final act. But as it stands, the film as a whole commanded my attention and left me in awe for most of its runtime, and will likely remain one of the most fascinating watches I’ve had this year. It’s certainly the only Galician movie I’ve ever seen.
Watching this work of art made me want to know more about Patiño’s films, though that’s not an easy task. A few major outlets reviewed Red Moon Tide upon its Spanish release several years ago but outside of that attention, little is written about this director or Galician cinema in general – yet another reason that Mubi‘s library and its user reviews are so invaluable to movie lovers. These kinds of surreal, minimalist works have never been easier to seek out and still it seems as if they’ve never been closer to dying on the vine, forgotten by the filmgoing masses content with seeing Marvel’s various offerings and precious little else.
But work like Patiño’s leaves a more indelible mark, I’d like to think. They do for me anyway! Red Moon Tide acts as a reminder that film is a constantly evolving medium, and that there is no one right way to make a movie. And it’s treasures like this film that keep me hunting through new cinematic movements halfway around the world.