Film Review: Enraged Sun, Enraged Sky

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Berlin International Film Festival -- Panorama

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BERLIN -- The film-festival circuit regularly plays host to many hundreds of creative misfires, but even by those standards, "Enraged Sun, Enraged Sky" is something special. Because while any fool can make a bad movie, it takes the unusual kind of anti-talent found in writer-director Julian Hernandez to come up with something so howlingly pretentious, self-indulgent and meretricious as this 191-minute farrago.

Likely to be embraced by those for whom cinema is as much about artistic ambition as actual achievement (i.e. the jurors who gave the film the Teddy Award for best gay-themed feature at the latest Berlinale), the film's prodigious length and copious male nudity will ensure much interest from festival-programmers. Audiences, however, will surely see this nonsense for what it is and vote with their feet. Commercial prospects are non-existent.

"Enraged Sun, Enraged Sky" is a dialogue-light affair, the woefully thin "story" being instead related through song extracts and snatches of overheard radio and TV broadcasts. Indeed, Armando Narvaez del Valle's three-dimensional sound-design is one of the picture's few saving graces, and cinematographer Alejandro Cantu also manages to come up with some striking monochrome images here and there. Unfortunately, these contributions are placed in the service of a stunningly banal screenplay, non-existent characterization, and cliche-ridden direction.

At a snail's pace, we follow confused young Ryo (Guillermo Villegas) around a chaotic Mexico City in search of love, a quest that takes him to the dilapidated cinema that's the haunt of brutish Tari (Javier Olivan). Sexual encounters here are presented as sordid, unwholesome, bestial -- and thus inadvertently revive long-discredited prejudices about predatory urban gays. Luckily for Ryo, he meets the hunky but sensitive Kieri (Jorge Becerra), but Tari isn't so easy to get rid of. The resulting conflict is resolved via a hallucinatory confrontation in a sun-bleached, wind-blown zone of alternative reality where the movie's final third plays out under the control of a mysterious figure billed as the Heart of the Sky (Giovanna Zacarias).

Hernandez has obviously seen seminal gay-themed works like Jean Cocteau's "Orpheus" -- he quotes from them often enough. But simply aping previous masters, without bringing anything new to the form, only serves to expose his own lack of ability. While there's material here for a passable 20-minute short, by dragging things out to an unconscionable three hours, Hernandez merely emphasizes these glaring shortcomings. His risibly overcooked hotchpotch of myths and references, dressed up as a high-art-movie, diminishes the reputation of Mexican cinema, gay cinema and, indeed, cinema in general.

Production company: Foprocine, Mexico City
Cast: Jorge Becerra, Guillermo Villegas, Javier Olivan, Giovanna Zacarias, Clarisa Rendon
Director: Julian Hernandez
Screenwriter: Julian Hernandez
Producer: Daniel Alonso
Director of photography: Alejandro Cantu
Production designers: Jesus Torres Torres, Carolina Jimenez
Music: Arturo Villela Vega
Costume designer: Laura Garcia de la Mora
Editor: Emiliano Arenales Osorio
Sales: Mexican Film Institute, Mexico City
No rating, 191 minutes