★★★★★ | I Am Happiness On Earth
Mexican filmmaker Julián Hernández’s latest cinematic treat is essentially a film within a film.
Its protagonist Emiliano is an openly gay director whose current movie that we see in progress on screen involves filming real-life dancer Gloria Conterras and some of her students. It soon becomes apparent that Emiliano’s interests in the dancers go way beyond this project as he lusts after all the cute male ones, and soon becomes the lover of one of their number.
For the seemingly emotionless Emiliano having a handsome lover like Octavio is simply not enough to satisfy him even though it is obvious that the young dancer is hopelessly in love with him. Monogamy equals monotony in the director’s eyes, but even with a succession of hot rent boys who are willing to satisfy his every desire, Emiliano is never happy. But then again it’s hard to know what will. He is very handsome, has a successful career that has given him both fame and fortune and seeks solace in some casual drug and alcohol but still feels completely empty.
The movie with its sparse dialogue and its emphasis on aesthetics of these handsome Latino men and little attempt to include a conventional plot, makes this a typical Hernández movie. And one that is possibly better than A Thousand Peace Clouds Encircle the Sky and Raging Sun, Raging Sky that won him his two prestigious Teddy Awards from the Berlinale. He has this remarkable ability to photograph his men in the most seductive and sublime manner that when naked they seem so erotic and sensual that make the scenes of intimacy seem so natural and totally beautiful without ever appearing to be remotely just basically explicit or crude in any.
There are, as always, more than a few questions when certain (of the few) strands of the story seemed to go off-kilter… such as the abandoned Octavio seeking comfort with making out with two girls as if he had now suddenly embraced bisexuality. But then again Hernández never even attempts to make our jobs easy with his lyrical style of filmmaking that focuses more on a vision that encourages us to stretch our imagination a tad more than usual.
He is helped to this end with a heart-beating cast led by the stunning Hugo Catalán who made such an impact in ‘Clandestinos’ a few years ago, and newbie actor Alan Ramirez as the beautiful dancer Octavio.
If you like a conventional start, middle and end to your movies, then this is certainly not one for you. However, if you are up for a very intricate piece that is shot almost like a ballet with its seemingly choreographed moves and against an exhilarating soundtrack (composed by Arturo Villela) that is steeped in both passion and pain (with sex too), then you will revel in this extraordinary new movie.
When Emiliano says ‘I love you’ (as he often did), he means it for that moment. The trouble is that it is followed by a lot more moments. It’s doubtful if he ever will truly find happiness on earth.