Wednesday, January 18, 2017

We Are the Flesh: Mexican Extremity

Mariano is sort of a Mexican cross between Tool Time Tim Allen and the Marquis de Sade. He has no use for bourgeoisie morality, but he sure goes through the duct tape. Desperate siblings will be caught in his madness during Emiliano Rocha Minter’s nasty bit of extremity, We Are the Flesh (trailer here) which opens this Friday in New York.

It is hard to follow his futzing, but it appears Mariano is trying to turn a post-industrial loft into a womb-like lair, mostly through the liberal application of duct tape. Into this heart of darkness wander a waifish brother and sister in search of food. Of course, simple supplication will not suffice. Instead, Mariano will sink his hooks into the siblings, forcing them to commit incestuous sexual acts and to act as his accomplice in the ritual murder of a captured soldier.

Using language reminiscent of Sade’s puerile paeans to perversion, Mariano gains a Svengali-like hold over his guest, particularly the sister. He also dies and comes back during rave, because Rocha Minter will not spare us any symbolic provocations. To top things off, he delivers a twist ending that was a groaner when M Night Shyamalan used it in the mid-2000s.

There is no question Rocha Minter is a powerful visual stylist, but his desire to shock is often counterproductive. Any intended commentary on Mexican society is lost in the not-so simulated outrageousness. Still, you have to give the cast credit for so willingly shedding their clothes and their dignity, especially María Evoli, who really goes for broke as the sister. It is a bold performance and a bold career move, since she will have something that will probably be considered in the same general neighborhood of A Serbian Film on her resume.

So, we’re still building that wall, right? Suddenly, it doesn’t sound like such a bad idea. A lot of talent and effort went into Flesh, including Yollótl Alvarado’s dream-like cinematography and the off-the-wall work of art director Manuela García. That is why it is so frustrating the final film does not inspire more feeling than cold, clammy distaste. Not recommended, We Are the Flesh opens this Friday (1/20) in New York, at the Cinema Village.