Tuesday, October 9, 2012

All the Rage: "Raging Sun, Raging Sky" (2009)

A three hour black and white Mexican film that celebrates true love and gay sex...why is this so good?

Ryo (Guillermo Villegas) meets a mysterious woman (Giovanna Zacarias) in a rainstorm, and takes her back to his place for a one-night stand. The woman foretells, or wills, Ryo to find his true love and then literally vanishes. In the meantime, Kieri (Jorge Becerra) is an answering service operator who hangs around a porn theater turning tricks in the men's room. He soon realizes that casual sex is no substitute for love. The third point of this love triangle is Tari (Javier Olivan), a boxer who assumes the submissive role with his tricks before beating one of them senseless. He has something in common with the mysterious woman from the beginning of the film, and finds himself torn between Ryo and Kieri, who seem to be unable to find each other even though they were meant for each other...and don't get me started about the third hour of this thing- a mythic quest involving descent into the underworld...this is one strange flick.

Writer/director Julian Hernandez is known for his long paeans to homosexuality ("Broken Sky", "A Thousand Clouds of Peace"), but this is the first film I have seen from him. It runs an unbelievable three hours and twelve minutes. The title credit doesn't appear until two hours into the film! Spoken dialogue from an actor's mouth is not heard until fifty-three minutes into the film! Hernandez makes this film unbelievably difficult, but in turn it's unbelievably interesting.

"Raging Sun, Raging Sky" wears its inspirations on its sleeve. I saw some angles reminiscent of Lars von Trier's painterly compositions. Hernandez keeps the camera constantly in motion, invoking French New Wave. Alejandro Cantu's beautiful cinematography sometimes resembles beefcake photography of the 1950's. The final hour, featuring desert locations and strange body makeup, recalls Alejandro Jodorowsky and Derek Jarman. We see actors plunging their faces into sinks, and I immediately started humming The Breeders' "Cannonball". It is amazing that all of these ingredients come together as a feast for the eyes and ears (and brain).

There are only a handful of spoken lines in the film, but Hernandez is careful not to allow his cast to mug and over-emote. The settings are beautiful, from the opening shot of Zacarias framed by angelic circles walking through an underpass, to the sad porno theater with a creepy basement. Villegas and Becerra are good together, and although he might be seen as a villain, Olivan is completely sympathetic. There is a ton of nudity here, as almost every scene until the third hour has to do with sex or the pursuit of sex. Dream sequences are done in a washed out color palette. This is a hard film to sit down and explain, but I still liked it, even though I seem to have a penchant for slow moving films like this ("Japon", anyone? No?).

"Raging Sun, Raging Sky" has been hopping around the festival circuit, challenging audiences all over the world. It comes out on DVD soon, and is definitely worth a look-see. (* * * * *) out of five stars.