We Are The Flesh (Tenemos la carne)
2017 / Color / 1:85 widescreen – though the aspect ratio changes at the director’s whim/110 min. / Street Date February 28, 2017
Starring: Noe Hernandez, María Evoli and Diego Gamaliel.
Cinematography: Yollótl Alvarado
Film Editor: Yibran Asuad and Emiliano Rocha Minter
Written by Emiliano Rocha Minter
Produced by Julio Chavezmontes and Moisés Cosío
Directed by Emiliano Rocha Minter
Teetering on that thin edge between the ludicrous and the even more ludicrous, Emiliano Rocha Minter’s We Are The Flesh is a spittle-flecked, willfully deranged vision of life in a post-apocalyptic Mexico. Since its release in 2016, Minter’s movie, adrift in bodily fluids and overwrought speechifying, has been turning both heads and stomachs at film festivals across Europe.
An unconvincing mix of Living Theatre provocations and Eraserhead-like tableaus of bursting placentas and the drip, drip, drip of menstrual blood, Minter’s movie announces itself with the self-congratulatory gusto of an art school frosh convinced of his own taboo-shattering brilliance.
To be sure, Minter displays a steady hand in the movie’s ominous opening scenes, introducing us to both our host and ringmaster, a leering, bug-eyed hermit named Mariano (played by Miss Bala’s Noé Hernández) and the grimy hovel he inhabits. Mariano spends his days embroiled in obscure chemical experiments and plastering the walls of his decrepit apartment with boxing tape.
We’ve spent just enough time in this nut’s company to become simultaneously uneasy and bored when two refugees from the streets wander into Mariano’s building. The two are siblings; Fauna (played by María Evoli) and her brother Lucio (played by Diego Gamaliel). Mariano lets them stay in the apartment in exchange for their participation in his degenerate fun and games.
While Lucio is shy, stand-offish and presumably virginal, Maria, blasé but inquisitive, is ready and willing. What follows is an increasingly surreal merry-go-round of incest, murder, necrophilia and cannibalism topped off with some frenzied sexual interludes that may or may not be unsimulated.
The film arrives at its sticky climax as Mariano hosts a quasi-orgy which he kicks off by offering himself as the main course: “… I kindly ask all you lowlifes devour me until nothing is left.” They oblige with gusto and the film reaches its conclusion in a lame meta-moment as one of the sated party-goers wanders outside for a hackneyed reveal that would embarrass Rod Serling.
Minter wants to overwhelm us with this grotesque circus act, but he lacks the directorial control or artistic sensibility of David Lynch or of a Nobuo Nakagawa (whose 1964 Jigoku envelopes us in a genuine madhouse fever dream). Mariano the looney prophet promises his nightmare debaucheries will set us free but Minter the director is unable to deliver, he’s a carnival barker who can’t make good on his spiel.
Arrow has given Minter’s film a stellar presentation with an immaculate transfer and a full-throttled 5.1 surround option. The disc includes a video essay by critic Virginie Sélavy, interviews with the director and cast members Noé Hernández, María Evoli and Diego Gamaliel.
Also included are two short films by Minter in excellent transfers, Dentro and Videohome. The original theatrical trailer and a stills gallery round out the extras.
The Lovers on the Bridge
1991 / Color / 1:85 widescreen /127 min. / Street Date March 14, 2017
Starring: Juliette Binoche and Denis Lavant.
Cinematography: Jean-Yves Escoffier
Film Editor: Nelly Quettier
Written by Leos Carax
Produced by Albert Prévost and Hervé Truffaut
Directed by Leos Carax
Inspired by Jean Vigo’s gloomy romanticism and Werner Herzog’s theatrical monomania, French director Leos Carax brought The Lovers on the Bridge to the screen in 1991 (though the film didn’t find a stateside release till 1999).
Vigo’s 1934 heartbreaker L’Atalante suggested the story for Carax’s film in which two outcasts, adrift from society on a riverbank in the middle of Paris, find both love and a hint of redemption.
And Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo, with its crazed reenactment of a full-size steamship being led through the Amazon, gave determined moviemakers like Carax, who built a life-size replication of the Pont Neuf bridge in the south of France, the temerity to follow their dreams if not their budgets.
Juilette Binoche and Denis Lavant star as the down-and-out lovebirds and while Carax’s direction of the two actors is empathetic and at times ferociously lyrical, his leisurely approach to advancing the plot has its own numbing effect. Thankfully Binoche is on hand to provide a wake-up call.
As Michèle Stalens, a young artist sliding into blindness, the then 27 year old actress takes a transparently physical approach to her character, expressing the lost gamin’s sorrow with touchingly tomboyish movements and a runaway child’s uncertain gait (the actress can also take credit for the rather good paintings executed during the course of the film).
Binoche is required to do the heavy lifting in the romance department as well because Lavant as Alex, a feral fire-breathing street performer, spends most of his screen time in an inexpressive funk even in his most combustable moments (a far cry from his bravura, multi-character performances in Carax’s 2012 Holy Motors).
Best known for his more recent provocations, including Pola X, Carax has a firm grip on the material, lending a documentary flare to some scenes (like the tour of a drunk tank that plays out like a particularly discomfiting reality show) while other sequences explode into euphoric set pieces as the benighted couple are (temporarily) liberated from their purgatory by a night of fireworks and water skiing.
Having written the screenplay Carax can take responsibility for the movie’s prevailing atmosphere of misery but he is enough of a romantic to give his star-crossed stars the semblance of a happy ending and a modest affirmation: love found, even in purgatory, is worth going through hell to keep.
Kino Lobber has given The Lovers on the Bridge an extremely lovely transfer doing full justice to Jean-Yves Escoffier’s clear-eyed yet sumptuous cinematography. The disc supplements include a print essay by Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, a video essay, Water and Stone from Cristina Álvarez López and Adrian Martin and the film’s trailer.