Eric D. Snider

A Thousand Clouds of Peace (Spanish)

If Fellini and Bergman mated and produced a semi-talented gay Mexican son, he might be Julian Hernandez, whose second film "A Thousand Clouds of Peace" is a ponderous, quiet little mess that has nothing to say and no idea how to say it anyway.

I tend to think of movies as living, breathing things, and this living, breathing thing is stoned. It thinks about stopping to examine love, but it gets sidetracked and stares off into space for a while instead.

In Mexico City we meet Gerardo (Juan Carlos Ortuño), a teenager who's been lookin' for love in all the wrong places, i.e., in the streets, from strange men. His sexual adventures tend to result in people giving him money even when money had not previously been discussed. This speaks volumes about his prowess, but Gerardo is not flattered, he is depressed. He wants a connection, not a hookup. He wants love.

Having recently spent what seemed to be a promising evening with a fellow, only to have that fellow jilt him, Gerardo begins a morose search for the man, drifting in and out of fantasy as he does. The film adopts a dreamy surrealism, complemented by the black-and-white photography, that would be gorgeous if there were something behind it. Hernandez uses a lot of silences, and he's an artful director, but Ortuño isn't engaging enough as an actor to keep us interested when all he's doing is standing there, looking tormented.

It's a shame, because the film hints at talent in Hernández. I like his trend of giving his movies long, poetic names: This one is actually called "A Thousand Clouds of Peace Fence the Sky, Love; Your Being Love will Never End" ("Mil nubes de paz cercan el cielo, amor, jamás acabarás de ser amor"); his last one, also about street hustlers, was "It Was a Time When Dreams Gave Way to Long, Sleepless Nights" ("Hubo un tiempo en que los sueños dieron paso a largas noches de insomnio"). He has a poet's heart, and visually, he has a strong sense of composition. It may be his skills as a writer that need honing, then, for "A Thousand Clouds of Peace" offers little in the way of theme or meaning, and ultimately just becomes dull.

Grade: C-

Not rated, probably R for a fair amount of nudity, some graphic sexuality, and some harsh profanity

1 hr., 22 min.; in Spanish with subtitles

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