Sangre, like Battle in Heaven, reveals Amat Escalante’s kinship to the prol-obsessed cinema of Bruno Dumont, only the director forgets to spike the story’s punch. Escalante latches on to the faces of his main characters—Diego (Cirilo Recio), a people-counter at a research facility; his wife Blanca (Laura Saldaña), perpetually horny; and his daughter Karina (Claudia Orozco), hungry for acceptance—so acutely and obsessively it becomes all the more surprising how little is revealed about them. The film’s pace is arithmetic-like—the duration of two or three back-to-back shots seemingly equals the length of a fourth—and there’s a Dumontian sense of tension that hangs in the air, as if Diego could at any moment pull out a knife and stab someone in the heart, even if you never get a sense of why he’d ever want to do such a thing. Escalante’s pencil-box compositions are rigid, suggesting a comic-strip panel: The characters are supposed to feel smothered, but there’s too much space around their bodies and faces, so when they blurt out random bits of dialogue (an invitation to fuck; an apology for something or other), you half expect to see their mechanical declarations written out inside a thought bubble. Blanca wants sex like the similarly apathetic Garfield wants lasagna, but she, like everyone else in the film, is as inscrutably one-note as Odie. When she leans across the kitchen table and asks Diego to fuck her, the table falls apart. Later, when Diego makes a pilgrimage to a garbage dump, he walks Jesus-like across a stream of water to pick fruit from a tree only to fall straight into the water on the way back. What Escalante has done is downgrade Carlos Reygadas’s battle in heaven to a series of little domestic skirmishes and the effect is not unlike watching the air being let out of a balloon—a miscalculation with no palpable political, social, and moral dimensions. If the title of the film was meant to be ironic—a reflection of what the film is drained of—then Escalante’s parody has fallen on deaf ears and blind eyes.
- 90 min
- Amat Escalante
- Amat Escalante
- Cirilo Recio, Laura Saldaña, Claudia Orozco
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