I’ve written on more than one occasion that some of the most interesting queer cinema around is coming out of Central and South America. This new release focuses on the work of Julián Hernández (Broken Sky, Raging Sun Raging Sky) and Roberto Fiesco, who have often collaborated together (such as Fiesco producing Hernández’s film). Mexican Men brings together five gay-themed short films, the first directed by Fiesco, with the others helmed by Hernández.
So are they any good? Take a look below.
Trémulo (Trembling) – 20 mins
Roberto Fiesco’s Tremulo centres on an assistant working in a barber shop, who opens the premises up in the evening (even though he knows he shouldn’t), to help out a young man who needs a haircut and a shave. Over the course of the evening the two men get increasingly close, with sexual tension building between them, which at first the shop worker attempts to reject. It’s a rather sweet and sexy short film, which plays out essentially as a short romantic fantasy – the sort of thing we wish would happen rather than what actually does. That said, there is a sting in the story’s tail – but will it all work out? Charming and tender, it’s the sort of short film that will make you want to feel all loved-up.
Young Man at the Bar Masturbating with Rage and Nerve – 21 mins
As the name suggests, there’s a slightly different tone from Tremulo with Julián Hernández’s provocatively titled short, Young Man at the Bar Masturbating with Rage and Nerve. The film follows a man who works as a rent boy, which helps to support his real passion of dancing. However, for him these two things are not mutually exclusive, with sex and dance playing similar roles – despite the fact he is Jonathan when being paid for sex and Cristhian when dancing. The film is a sort of constructed documentary, with interviews intercut with scenes and sections that have obviously been staged.
There’s no sense of artifice though, with the constructed moments used to illuminate what Jonathan is saying and helping bring a beauty and homoerotic edge to the film. It’s also interesting that it does this with both sides of Jonathan’s life (which also ensures the films get increasingly hot as it goes on). It’s surprisingly interesting, with Jonathan discussing how his naiveté about both being gay and the possibilities of dance slowly evolved into something more, and then how prostitution fits into his life, with dance used to bring the two sides together.
Wandering Clouds – 13 mins
Two young men are swimming, while in voiceover one of them tells us about their relationship – a mix of friendship and rivalry with an undeniably homoerotic edge. Then a third man arrives, who dances before diving in – which could change the dynamic once again and bring bubbling anger and homophobia to the surface. As with Young Man and some of Hernandez’s other films, the short demonstrates the director’s fascination with the possibilities of dance, with the whole thing playing out like a highly choreographed pas de deux (or trois, technically), with the short using these stylised movements to heighten the sexuality and emotion of what’s it’s trying to do. Although it’s sometimes a little opaque, you can feel the sense of the short using its swimming pool setting to explore the difficulties of relationships, from the erotic to the jealousies that can emerge.
Atmosphere – 20 mins
The feeling of watching a dance is also present in the stylised Atmosphere. A woman enters a building where the only occupant seems to be a single man. A loud speaker talks about the dangers of the world, not least a possible pandemic that appears to be threatening to destroy everything. As the women sneaks around the building, she starts to realise that things she’s been led to believe may not be true. The whole thing is rather mysterious, with the viewer being asked to figure out what’s going on. Starting out in black white before various different colours are brought into the short’s world, it raises all sorts of questions, even if many will still be scratching their heads over what it was really all about at the end. As with Hernandez’s other films here, there’s a fascination with exploring moments and ideas in isolation, apart from the broader context of the world. It brings an odd simplicity that soon gives way an unusual complexity to everything, with the viewer forced to contemplate what you’re being shown on a surprisingly intimate level.
To Live – 10 mins
To Live starts with The Pain, where a man who’s been knocked to the dirt is approached by another guy who wants to know if he loves him. That’s followed by Rivers In The Time Of Rain, in which a naked man is sitting on the edge of the bath while a woman in on the bed next door. Once more you are essentially watching a dance as much as a film, and many will find this the most difficult of the shorts to engage with, largely because it wears its artiness on its sleeve as it explores both the characters’ emotional closeness and distance. However, it is an interesting little short, particularly Rivers In The Time Of Rain, which is filmed as if it’s a single shot and very cleverly done.
Overall Verdict: How you respond to Mexican Men is likely to be similar to how you respond to dance – largely because Hernandez’s films are as much modern dance pieces as they are movies. The shorts are definitely sexy, and most of them will make you think.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac