Wednesday, December 13, 2017

PLANTS: Roberto Doveris explores voyeurism, sex, coming-of-age and the vegetative state -- in an oddball Latin American series at AFA

Despite New York City's being a place in which -- even though Los Angeles/Hollywood claims to be the film capital of the world -- one could always see more international cinema, new or classic, than anywhere else in the USA, because this world-cinema capital regularly misses out on certain perhaps important movies that have garnered acclaim at international festivals or in their home country, Cinema Tropical and NYC's Anthology Film Archives (AFA) are joining forces to help remedy this -- so far as Latin American film are concerned, at least -- with monthly screenings, the last of which (for now) takes place tomorrow, Thursday, December 14, at 7:15 pm at the AFA, in a series, entitled charmingly and lengthily, If You Can Screen It There: Premiering Contemporary Latin American Cinema NYC. 

This final offering in the series is a Chilean movie from first-time filmmaker (who also edited his film and perhaps had a hand in the writing of it, too, but I can find no accreditation for its screenplay), Roberto Doveris, shown at left, entitled PLANTS (Las plantas). In it, a young girl, Florencia (newcomer Violeta Castillo), who appears to be in transition from adolescence to womanhood, undergoes some very bizarre experiences, feelings, ideas and reading material. The latter, a book (or maybe a comic) entitled Las Plantas, is the story of sentient plants who take over their human nurturers at night (or maybe only during the full moon: things are not always too clear here), to which our heroine becomes rather addicted, to the point at which we wonder if she herself is not imagining this story to actually be happening to her. Or not.

Meanwhile, she has the care of her comatose brother Sebastian, a very hot-looking sleeping beauty (Mauricio Vaca, below, right), whom she bathes and cares for and whose diaper she changes, all in a manner than seemed to me pretty unbelievable. (Are comatose patients so easily managed at home, while being left along for hours upon end?). Florencia's other interests range from choreography and dancing with two male friends to combing the internet for possible sexual partners.

The one she finds -- we watch, as do Florencia and her pals, as he jacks off  online and later in person through her glass doorway, above -- proves to be another very hot young man, older and more experienced than our girl, but ready for some nice hard-core action. The actor, Ernesto Meléndez, has a handsome face, a good body and proves very well-endowed in the dick department (hard and soft), so for these couple of scenes alone, the movie may be worth some viewers' time. In any case, Señor Doveris once again suggests that hard-core moments can easily be shown in an otherwise dramatic/comedic film without the world of culture coming to a sudden end.

Florencia also has a mother, above, who is ill (or doing a good job of feigning, as another relative suggests), and our poor girl has clearly been saddled with too much responsibility, though in almost all matters save those sexual, she is quite willing to slough things off much of the time.

Doveris is concerned here, among other things, with coming-of-age, sexuality, the vegetative state (of both plants and humans), and storytelling, together with its ability to entrap us. He even flirts with a touch of animation, as above, along the way. His skills include some visually stunning scenes in which color (bright lavender and pale green), composition and camerawork (by Patricio Alfaro) come together in stunning manner; and his ability to slowly reveal the who, what, why and how of his characters and their connection is a plus, as well.

The big problem is that, beyond all this, he is unable to actually join his themes and ideas into anything more than vaguely coherent. Nothing comes home to roost. We understand what he wants his movie to be about, but that's not the same thing as actually achieving it. Beyond this, the decent acting, and the hot and fun sex scenes, Plants amounts to mostly a big shrug. The movie certainly shows promise, however, so we'll look forward to Doveris' next endeavor.

Meanwhile, this one plays just one time in New York City at AFA tomorrow, December 14, at 7:15pm. Click here for tickets and/or further information.

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