‘Pink Noise’ (‘Ruido Rosa’): Cartagena Review

Pink Noise Still - H 2015
Courtesy of Kymera

Pink Noise Still - H 2015

Melancholy, understated and quietly humorous drama about how love don’t come easy

This odd-couple romance set in the rainy backstreets of a Colombian town took Best Director at Colombia’s recent Cartagena festival

He was an aging, bicycle-riding electrical appliance repair man. She was a hotel cleaner with a large nose and false teeth. Pretty Woman it ain’t, but Roberto Flores Prieto’s Pink Noise is gently rewarding, a carefully-crafted study of a fleeting romance set in a Colombian back street, with plenty for alert viewers to enjoy. In setting, characterization and treatment Prieto’s brief seems to have been to sidestep romantic cliche where possible, and in doing so he has made a third film of emotional truth and quiet distinctiveness.

This is one of those movies which has been built on the principles of unstatement and nuance. Consequently it demands the same careful eye from its audience, so that although with some tightening and a quicker pace this has a universally appealing theme which could well be remake material, as it stands Noise is most likely to be heard on the Spanish-language festival circuit.

Pink Noise describes what we hear from our radio we’re stuck between stations, and that is where the twin protagonists of the film metaphorically find themselves. It is basically set in two locations at the start of the rainy season, in the repair shop where gruff Luis (Roosevel Gonzalez) -- man who mends TVs but significantly doesn’t own one -- plies his trade, and in the hotel he visits for sad sex with a prostitute (Nazly Ramirez). As she waits for a visa for a move to New York, Carmen (Mabel Pizarro) cleans the hotel and lives there too, wearing headphones in bed as she struggles to drown out the pink noise of couples in other rooms making love: she is nonetheless excited by their brief nocturnal romances, and wants one of her own.

Following one of the neighborhood’s regular power cuts, Carmen takes her radio cassette player to Luis to be mended: that day, Luis finds one of his regular clients dead at home and suddenly becomes aware of his own mortality. Carmen paints her nails, gets a new hairdo and visits him, and by slow, subtle steps they start to grow close.

Films about oddball romances tend to sentimentally play up the oddball factor, but here oddball feels absolutely normal. Pink Noise plays down absolutely everything, creating a hushed, atmosphere of trembling tensions where the loudest noises generally come from offstage. The one scene which nods to romantic cliche, a bike ride in the rain, is also one of the briefest, in a film which defiantly takes its time. Sometimes it does so to the point of distraction: if Carlos is fixing Carmen’s radio cassette with particular care and attention, that’s fine, but we probably don’t need to watch him tinkering at it for two minutes straight.

Noise is largely dialogue-free, creating a couple of awkwardly dead moments where valuable screen time could have been saved by a few words. But more importantly, the emotional logic underpinning the story is intact and solid, an approach which places the burden on the actors to do it by gesture and nuance. In this regard, Pizarro is a particular joy to watch: her expressions as she checks in a horny young couple at the hotel or holds up a sexy red bra to herself in the mirror are comic gold in a film with a fair sprinkling of amusing moments. There’s a half-smile of human optimism practically always playing across Carmen’s ever-expressive features which suggests a lovely, sweet idea: that she might, in fact, be seeking a little romance as much for the sake the elderly repair man as for herself.

The mood is primarily claustrophobic, Juan Camilo Olmos Feris exploiting a range of tight angles and half-lit interiors. The weight of the rain oppresses everything even when it is not torrentially, -- seriously torrentially - falling. Soundwork by Miguel Vargas Mejia merits mention, present throughout to evoke a world beyond the cramped confines of the one which this Carmen and Luis inhabit, but to which they will have only fleeting access.

Production company: Kymera Producciones
Cast: Mabel Pizarro, Roosevel Gonzalez
Director: Roberto Flores Prieto
Screenwriters: Carlos Franco Esguerra, Roberto Flores Prieto
Producers: Roberto Flores Prieto, Diana Lowis
Director of photography: Juan Camilo Olmos Feris
Production designer: Diana Saade
Costume designer: Veronica Wunderlin Neuman
Editor: Andres Rojas Flores
Composers: Jose Carlos Maria, Oliver Camargo May
Sound: Miguel Vargas Mejia
Sales: Kymera Producciones

No rating, 101 minutes