Friday, December 18, 2009

SCN: Cesc Gay's V.O.S., the "movie-movie" rom-com about the making of a rom-com

There have been plenty of movies made about movies and movie-making, some of which play with what's real and what's not, fracturing time, place and reality. But none, I think, have done it quite to the extent that Spanish filmmaker Cesc Gay manages in his new V.O.S. (which signifies "version original, subtitled" and is Spain's most-used designation for an "art film."
Señor Gay (shown below) seems to be simultaneously making fun of and having fun with art films and romantic comedies, and perhaps asking us why these can't be -- at least once in awhile -- one in the same? He's also forcing us to consider the difference between living and acting -- aren't we often (maybe always) doing both? The whole world is a movie set here, from the hospital in which a birth begins the film to apartments, country homes, highways and more. Even the movie set is a movie set, of course, or he couldn't be filming it. Ohmigod, will all this artifice, these Russian dolls and Chinese boxes, never end?!

Fortunately the movie is short -- coming in well under an hour-and-a-half (plus credits) -- and the writer/director contrives to do some very clever stuff with his what's-real-what's-not, taking it occasion-
ally into the realm of fantasy. (My favorite moment involves an out-
door snow scene that comes suddenly indoors -- an utterly enchan-
ting expression of what it's like to realize you are in love, and how bizarre this can look to an outsider who isn't feeling the same way.) His cast is quite good and quite photogenic, as well: Àgata Roca (shown above, right, who bears a resemblance to Leonore Watling) and Vicenta N'Dongo (center, left) as the ladies, Andrés Herrera (center, right) and Paul Berrondo (at left) as the guys.

If this new film does not come near Gay's amazing In the City (En la ciudad, one of the finest ensemble movies I've ever seen) in its exploration of urban humanity in all its troubling hypocrisies and sad attempts at connection, well, V.O.S. is a rom-com, so what do we expect? I suspect Gay has a rather dark -- read realistic -- view of humanity. His last film Ficció, shown at the 2008 Spanish Cinema Now, also played around with reality and fiction, with the view tending toward the gray.

TrustMovies may sound a little iffy about V.O.S. This is only because Gay' most recent films have seemed to slant more toward exercises than to full-bodied stories/character studies -- as did his earlier two, In the City and Nico and Dani (Krampack) -- with much more importance invested in what was happening on-screen. Here, the dialog too often alternates between argumentative and playful, and after while I began to tire of these characters and their games with each other and themselves. I'll watch whatever Gay chooses to make -- he's too interesting a filmmaker to pass up -- but the fuller and deeper are his films, the more I'll enjoy them.

V.O.S. plays today Friday, December 18, at 1pm; again tonight at 7pm; and Sunday, December 20, at 6. The venue is the Walter Reade Theater.

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