Though Sólo Con Tu Pareja would achieve considerable acclaim on the international circuit and help launch Alfono Cuarón’s Hollywood career, it’s taken the filmmaker’s feature-length debut more than a decade to travel north of the border. Banned for many years in Mexico, the film filters the sexual agency and paranoia of its characters through a telenovela scrim, bringing to mind the baroque effervescence of Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Delicatessen, only with a more vital social framework. The film’s English title, Love in the Time of Hysteria—a tribute to Gabriel García Marquez’s magical realist masterpiece Love in the Time of Cholera—emphasizes Cuarón’s desire to study how sexual behavior is shaped by the times, in this case the rising AIDS crisis. This bawdy comedy’s tour-de-force is a prolonged sequence during which a very busy lothario, Tomás Tomás (Daniel Giménez Cacho), scales the exterior of his apartment in order to bed two different women, singing a nursery rhyme to keep his balance only to be distracted by the beautiful flight attendant who’s just moved into the residence nestled between his bachelor pad and his doctor-friend’s apartment. When one of the women, Silvia (Dobrina Liubomirova), learns that she’s been played for a fool, she fudges the man’s medical results to indicate that he’s HIV-positive, which leads the man down a staccato road toward suicide. The film is like a champagne bottle’s ricocheting cork—an explosion of poppy camera maneuvers, literary allusions, chatty reiterations, raunchy sex, and spastic flights of fantasy rich in cultural flavor (one of the man’s nightmares accommodates a Lucha Libre fighter and a bullfighting castrati). Cuarón sustains the fizziness throughout, evoking one of those randy Euro-trash commercials that are too hot for American television. A little one-note perhaps, but consistently funny and sexy.
The IFC First Take screener of the film looked as if it had some kind of venereal disease, but this Criterion Collection disc is spotless: Colors are vibrant and the image, overall, is sharp, evoking more than ever the television-commercial chic Alfonso Cuarón was trying to lambaste throughout the film. Audio is almost as rich.
A 30-minute making-of piece is almost as sweet and horned-up as the film, tracing the roots of the picture to Alfonso Cuarón's earliest influences (Vittorio De Sica's The Bicycle Thief and Canoa, which the director presented at LatinBeat 2006). Alfonso talks of titties, tears, and middle-class mores, while his brother Carlos talks of Cinema as a whore who gives great head. Still sexy at 45, Daniel Giménez Cacho appears to extol Alfonso as the voice of his generation, which may not exactly be obvious from the director's short film Quartet for the End of the Time, which is included next to a piss-poor copy of Carlos's Wedding Night short from 2000. Rounding out the disc is the film's theatrical trailer and a booklet featuring a new essay by Ryan F. Long a biographical sketch of the Tomás Tomás character that Carlos wrote for Giménez Cacho to aide the actor's performance.
This sexy, often funny comedy about AIDS is missing one important thing: a crucial sense of danger.