Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Submitted By Ecuador: Porcelain Horse

It is nice to know class privilege still counts for something under the Correa regime.  Take the well-heeled junkie brothers, Paco and Luis Chavez—please.  All they want to do is slack about and free-base.  They will do some rotten things to support their habits and largely get away them, until a reckoning finally catches up with them in Javier Andrade’s Porcelain Horse (trailer here), which Ecuador has selected as their official submission for the best foreign language Academy Award.

Of the two, Paco would be considered the more responsible older brother, if you are grading on a generous curve.  Technically, he holds down a job as a clerk in the bank his family founded (thanks solely to their influence).  He also has the dubious stability of a long term sexual relationship with Lucia, his married former high school hook-up, who is addicted to softer drugs.

Paco is his parents’ favorite, whereas his delinquent brother Luis is not. The younger Chavez brother has a mountain of debt with his dealer, but his only job is fronting a garage band so amateurish it would be a high compliment to call them punk.  Nonetheless, they start to build a following when Lucia’s spurned husband starts managing them.  Although the brothers do not get on well, they often join forces to raise drug money. However, their plans to swipe a fateful bit of bric-a-brac from their parents’ home will set in motion a tragic chain of events.  Viewers will have to wait for it to play out though.

While Porcelain’s trailer suggests a punk rock bacchanal, the film on the screen is more like an Ecuadorian Brett Easton Ellis story.  There is a whole lot of drug use and existential angst, but the slam bang stuff is mostly confined to the eleventh hour.  Frankly that is rather a shame, because Ecuador could use a good dose of punk’s snarling contempt for authority.

Still, it is good to note Columbia alumnus Andrade could return home and produce such a seedy foray into Charles Bukowski-Larry Clark territory.  You really have to wonder how much of the film the consulate representative who introduced last night’s screening had really seen.  Of course, lambasting the idle wealthy probably never goes out of style.

To their credit, Francisco Savinovich and Victor Arauz fully commit to the Chavez Brothers’ unsavory scruffiness. The former is particularly unsettling as the soul-deadened Paco.  Andrés Crespo also brings some needed fierceness as Lagarto, the uncharacteristically patient drug dealer (but he still has his limits).  Indeed, nobody looks like they are faking it during any of Porcelain’s scenes of vice and indolence.

Andrade is clearly a bold, risking taking filmmaker, but his tacked on postscript is decidedly surreal and didactic, completely at odds with the rest of the film’s jittery naturalism.  It is interesting to see Porcelain Horse is out there, but it is unlikely to be a player this Oscar season.  Those intrigued should keep an eye of Cinema Tropical’s website for future screenings opportunities.