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Miles of flesh with no road map
The aphorism states that life imitates art. It’s a hoary old chestnut, and a rather stupid one, since in reality art imitates life, so if life imitates art, then it is simply a case of life imitating life with an intervening veneer of art.
If that seems convoluted, just wait until you watch the film that spurred the preceding musing, I Am Happiness on Earth (Yo soy la felicidad de este mundo) by Mexican filmmaker Julián Hernández, coming August 19 from Breaking Glass Pictures.
The film begins following dancer Octavio (Alan Ramirez), who is out of action with a sprained knee. He is being pursued by film director Emiliano (Hugo Catalán), a swarthy Casanova with an eye for dancers. He likes casting them, he likes dating them. Probably something to do with lithe, flexible bodies.
Emiliano and Octavio are happy for a while, until Emiliano, while directing a new film, just stops answering Octavio’s texts and calls. Octavio does what anyone in his situation would do, has a threesome with two of his female friends and then ignores Emiliano when he finally starts calling again.
Partway through the film, however, it suddenly shifts its attention to a strange, lantern-jawed boy with a heart-shaped birthmark over his heart, who alternately seems to be in love with a shaggy-haired waif and a minidress-clad vixen.
We then learn that this polymorphously perverse little ménage á trois is the film Emiliano was making, Uno Entre Muchos--one among many, in English.
After having emerged from the film within a film, we return to Emiliano’s tomcatting. He secures the services of a young sex worker named Jazen (Emilio von Sternerfels), who after a murkily undisclosed period of time seems to become Emiliano’s de facto boyfriend. Of course, a tiger doesn’t change its stripes, and Emiliano starts becoming emotionally distant.
Hernández’ film is beautiful, filled with acres of taut young flesh. He’s not shy, and his actors are not either. Moody glances, dark stares fill the screen.
The story, however, disconnects the audience from emotional attachment to the characters. We empathize in the beginning with Octavio, who is a false protagonist, almost completely disappearing a third of the way in. Those cuckoos inhabiting the nest in the film are nice to look at, but it’s difficult to figure out what the hell is going on with them--there is no dialogue in their section whatsoever. A lot of slinking about naked on all fours like cats, but no dialogue.
When we come back to Emiliano, he has already been tarnished in the audiences’ eyes as the schmuck who abandoned the adorable little Octavio. Perhaps I’m jaded, but I was expecting Jazen to rob Emiliano blind. That doesn’t happen, but there are other betrayals coming.
It is odd to think about a film filled with attractive young people getting naked regularly as being interminable, but it kind of was. It was fun, but it was long and vaguely confusing. Perhaps I blinked during the moment when the subtitles explained everything, but I doubt it.