Dir: Eliseo Subiela. Argentina, 2008. 85 mins.
Once the darling of art cinema circles and festival programmers, veteran Argentine filmmaker Eliseo Subiela (Last Images Of The Shipwreck, The Dark Side of the Heart) could be looking at a comeback with this erotic romp, which doesn't take itself as seriously as some of his previous work.
Basically an extended sex manual, Don't Look Down spends almost one third of its running time with one couple artistically copulating on screen. There's nothing too kinky or unclean here to spoil the no-strings-attached fun, and the accompanying philosophical blather provides an intellectual alibi that will tempt quite a few art houses into programming it. Serious-minded critics and film purists will quite rightly baulk at the flimsy pretence of it all, but this will hardly dent ticket sales. Given the right handling, Don't Look Down is looking at arthouse and specialised distribution on top of obvious festival play.
Eloy (Stivelman) is a young man with his head in the clouds (literally - he frequently walks on ten-foot-high stilts). He is convinced that his late father (Arana) is still visiting him at night and leaving messages in his notebook. Emotionally navigating on the border separating the living and the dead (visually represented by both sides of a cemetery fence), he delivers tombstones for the family business and sleepwalks at night, often meeting up with his father's old lover.
During one of these nocturnal expeditions, he reaches into the open roof window of sleeping beauty Elvira (Costa), and literally drops into her bed. No further time is lost: they take their clothes off, first for some nude meditation, and later, of course, for sex - Elvira is a bit of an expert on this front, while Elroy is a novice in need of some enthusiastic training.
Elvira is totally au fait with all the positions in the book, many of which are displayed on camera - or at least as many as the 85-minute running time allows. By the end of the film, Eloy's pain at losing his father has been replaced by concern that Elvira is about to go back to Barcelona - but even that isn't a tragedy, for Elroy, now a black belt in the art of love-making, surely has a bright future with his own apprentice to look forward to.
Luckily Subiela's cast seem to be enjoying themselves here: Costa (La Fuga, Motorcycle Diaries) looks great in the nude and seems completely unfazed by the part's requirements, while Stivelman (The Holy Girl), with his eager, naïve smile and big blue eyes is cut out for the role. Sol Lopatin's cinematography is surprisingly lush, compared with the darkly brutal realism displayed earlier this year in La Rabia.
Most audiences will probably go along for the ride mainly for the piquant stuff on the menu, though they are ultimately bound to be as sceptical about the higher concepts of it all as Elroy's brother is when he's told about the 'magical' experiences of his sibling.
Orgon Films/Pascual Condito
Charivar Films (France)
Fonds Sud Cinema
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Director of photography