Blue and Not So Pink (Azul y no tan rosa): Film Review

Media Luna New Film
A watchable but derivative and thematically overstretched beginner’s guide to some of the identity issues of besetting a society straddled between the traditional and the modern.

This drama about sexual freedom in a repressed society is the first Venezuelan winner of the recent Goya awards, the Spanish equivalent of the Oscars, a win which came on the heels of big business in its home territory.

Subtle it ain’t, but there’s still an appealing directness about Miguel Ferrari’s Blue and Not So Pink, a heavily-loaded issues drama that delivers enough event and emotion for a whole series of telenovelas, but unfortunately not a whole lot more insight. Director Miguel Ferrari packs in themes including homosexuality, fatherhood, adolescent love, domestic abuse, online identity, reality TV, homophobia, transgendering and more into a unsurprisingly schematic but also compact and slick package which would, however, have greatly benefited from a more unhurried treatment of any one of its multiple subjects.

An overcooked, erotic tango sequence plays behind the credits of a film in which dance plays a key role; after all, this is a film about a Venezuela which, on the evidence of its recent social unrest, is still struggling to find the right moves. Fashion photographer Diego (Guillermo Garcia) is in a relationship with surgeon Fabrizio (Socrates Serrano). Their social life is rounded out by nightclub singer Delirio del Rio (Hilda Abrahamz), a tough-as-nails transvestite cabaret artiste, and unhappily married Perla Marina (Carolina Torres).

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In one scene that’s authentically painful to witness, Fabrizio is violently beaten up by a violently homophobic street gang and goes into coma; to further complicate Diego’s life, his shy, insecure teenage son from an earlier relationship, Armando (Nacho Montes) arrives from Spain to stay with him, opening up a Pandora’s box of emotions which the script struggles to negotiate as the young man moves hesitantly from shame about his father to acceptance of him. And things become even more intense on the hour mark, when Fabrizio dies. Over the final few minutes, the multiple plot lines will suddenly be wrapped up with some surprising elliptical shortcuts.

Garcia struggles to locate the emotional core of a character who’s being pulled in about a thousand directions at once by the script. On the performance side, audiences are likeliest to take away Abrahamz as Delirio -- responsible for most of the comedy, she's foul-mouthed, quick-witted and even, during one implausible but exciting face-off designed to make viewers punch the air, gun-toting.

Visually, Blue is workmanlike, too often falling back on cinematic clichés (Diego weeping in the shower, Diego frenetically running through the pouring rain). Whenever the TV is on in Blue and Not So Pink, it’s showing a reality TV show starring a presenter called Estrellita (Beatriz Valdes) which basically treats its guests as freaks but which gets huge ratings – another example of the film’s obvious but perhaps necessary social critique. Sergio de la Puente’s score is a puzzling combination of the syrupy orchestral and the lovely guitar-based theme that accompanies the gang through what is probably the film’s strongest sequence, the road journey that takes them inland towards the peace and quiet of rural Merida and towards yet more surprising revelations.

Latin American films dealing with themes of homosexuality and gender can sometimes seem a little retro to international audiences in territories where social attitudes have moved on (in some respects, this film is a more po-faced Venezuelan equivalent of Almodovar's early comic melodramas) but Venezuela’s machista culture is as strong as ever, and perhaps it’s in that context that the film should be judged. Broadly speaking, in Blue the older generation as represented by Diego’s and Fabrizio’s families, is anti-gay: as Diego points out to Fabrizio’s father, such attitudes are also those of the people who have beaten up his son. It’s a nice, telling moment, of which there are too few in a film which simply tries to say too much in too short a time, and which as a result ends up looking tongue-tied.

Production: Plenilunio Film & Arts, Factor RH, Malas Companias

Cast: Guillermo Garcia, Nacho Montes, Hilda Abrahamz, Carolina Torres, Alexander Da Silva,

Socrates Serrano, Elba Escobar, Beatriz Valdes

Director, screenwriter: Miguel Ferrari

Producer: Rodolfo Cova, Ferrari

Executive producer: Antonio Hens Cordova

Director of photography: Alexandra Henao

Production design: Marcelo Pont

Music: Sergio de la Puente

Editor: Miguel Angel Garcia

Wardrobe: Patricia Busquets

Sound: Nacho Arenas, Frank Rojas

Sales: Media Luna New Film

No rating, 113 minutes