Saturday, December 9, 2023

The murky and brilliant reinvention of sexual stigma (****)

‘One love’onIsabel Coixet a film that talk about sex, which teaches the sex and organized sex of its protagonist, more than the amazing Laia Costa. One could talk about desire, which is a more elegant way of talking about the same thing without offending, but not, the stains of love ‘Un amor’. And that, from a cinematographic, social and even sexual point of view, a lot. Sex, indeed, leaves a mark, as my mother used to say. And in this film premiering in San Sebastián, more.

‘One love’ starts from scratch. It discusses the norms of sexual representation not so much to deny them or to propose an alternative to promote them. The novel does this in a radical way from the same conflicting title and the film does it in an acidic and, of course, graphic way. What is important is the feeling of being separated, in an inhospitable place, simply and clearly funny. Coixet’s new work thus achieved a double goal. On the one hand, he continued the meticulous investigation of intimacy that led his entire filmography and, on the other, he added an element of anxiety, of fascinated questioning, of conscious detachment, which in itself way against every routine, every learned movement and Above all, stain. And even ammonia can’t remove that stain. We have arrived.

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This is a film that makes you uncomfortable from the first moment. And there, in discomfort, he stayed to live. It is true that the film is not as radical as the text, but the spirit, which is important, remains. A woman arrives in a town determined to escape from the city, from a scary job, and even from herself. I mean, once again that posh thing about rural Spain that the new Spanish cinema insists on, but from the other side (sometimes very close to Gothic horror). There he encounters the bad behavior of a rude and rude landlord, some distrustful locals, a crazy neighbor (good Hugo Silva), a restless happy family and a strange man (look out for a great, in every sense, Hovik Keuchkerian) that He will make you a sexual proposal without shadow of strength. Maybe all sexual suggestions are bad or not sexual suggestions at all.

From here, the film ventures into an unexplored space that is difficult to define because it is completely label-free. There are no motivations that drive the characters in the sense that we are used to in the usual cinema of obsessions. Nor is it about exploring what men (we call) feminine desire. The idea is not to offer a plan of attack and conquest based on a model of the understanding of love that has become a cinematographic cliché (even if the latter is not clearly part of the program). ‘Un amor’ is built on the emptiness and uncertainty of its central character whose only escape plan is to run.

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Hovik, Isabel Coixet and Laia Costa, now in San Sebastián.

The camera thus moves across the screen as confused by the story it depicts. And this is always done down to the most intimate details. And it is time to return to sex and its problems. At times, ‘Un amor’ seems like an exercise in foundational cinema, which makes questioning and questioning its raison d’être. And what is valid for form is equally valid for the ultimate meaning of everything. Coixet and Costa, together with Mesa, do not so much seek to answer the question of what it means to be or feel a woman (or man or whatever), but to remove all the artifices and impose that schemes. The question of being or feeling like a woman (or man or whatever) may not even be a meaningful question. But that is another matter.

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If anything can be criticized about Coixet’s proposal, it is precisely that it does not present itself in all its radicality. Costa’s character ends up in the city because he cannot, we are clearly told, endure a job as a translator for refugees whose tragedies are literally untranslatable because of excess. And the same goes for the lover played by Keuchkerian who, we know, drags out a family drama that is, let’s face it, unnecessary. Actually, The motivations, instead of adding, take away the energy of the enigma. What is important is the dislocation in which everyone finds themselves (we see ourselves) in a town that, far from being a refuge, can become a prison. Who will say this?

And then there’s the final scene. We won’t say what it consists of, but the director’s desire for self-boycott is, at the very least, unforgettable. How to pollute on purpose.

Nation World News Desk
Nation World News Desk
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