A YEAR WITHOUT LOVE (UNO ANO SIN AMOR)
Director: Anhai Berneri
Stars: Juan Minujín, Mimí Ardú, Carlos Echevarría
Pablo Perez (Juan Minujín) is a lonely writer who hunts in vain for intimacy at his hospital, at his home, and at the private leather sex clubs of Buenos Aires. When he hooks up with a hardcore sex gang, meets the charismatic Martín and decides to publish a frank autobiography, he drifts away from his supportive family. He doesn’t want to take AZT, but finally relents and begins a poetic affair with his tablets and capsules.
This is the first film from Anhai Berneri and, unfortunately, it’s very much a “first film”. Hand held camerawork, jump-cut editing and grainy lighting may have been meant to give the film an arty edginess, but it all made me feel a bit carsick. Get a tripod and turn the lights on! Aimless storylines and inert scenes don’t become interesting just because they shake or keep leaping ahead a few seconds in time. Pablo Perez, the screenwriter, has gone a bit heavy on the autobiography too, writing himself in as the main character and so things are tilted a little too introspectively for their own good.
Also, I think there should be a moratorium on ear-splitting gay disco scenes that are inserted repeatedly and without warning and used as a subsitute for action and dialogue. Watching a dungeon full of sweaty gay men bop about under blinking Vari-lites, cruising each other and buying drinks doesn’t tell us anything except that on a weekend night, city nightclubs have people in them. Clubs may be important to some subsets of gay culture, but if they’re to be in the film, they need to be used in some meaningful way, otherwise, like in this film, it’s like looking at some kind of technotronic, meth-fueled aquarium. (But maybe that’s the point.)
However, A Year Without Love is not without merits. Pablo’s description of his AZT capsules as a work of art of the 1980s, which he ingests, is the film’s great line of dialogue. There’s a good sense of claustrophobia and Minujín’s performance is gentle and interesting.
As usual, though, the guts of the storyline - AIDS - is given short shrift and replaced with a one-size-fits-all sentimental existentialism. A submissive s&m bottom who’s contracted HIV from following his bliss is a particular and compelling identity - but there’s not real exploration of that in this film and the matter-of-fact approach to AIDS and leather sex used by this film is tranquilisingly disengaging. As a woman sitting next to me at one of the film’s sellout screenings at the Sydney Film Festival whispered to her friend “so why does he want to be whipped all the time?