Blithely derivative but bubbling nonetheless with energy, freshness, style and exuberant humor, "Not Love, Just Frenzy" is a trash-glamour, post-Almodovar excursion into the pill-popping, nightclubbing, polysexual world of a bunch of young Madrilenos.

Blithely derivative but bubbling nonetheless with energy, freshness, style and exuberant humor, “Not Love, Just Frenzy” is a trash-glamour, post-Almodovar excursion into the pill-popping, nightclubbing, polysexual world of a bunch of young Madrilenos. This flashy, rather modish debut from Spanish writer-director trio Alfonso Albacete, Miguel Bardem and David Menkes, who come from advertising , TV and short films and go by the collective name of Peliculas Freneticas (Frenetic Films), should find fans among trendy urbanites.

While it’s less disciplined and more driven by flamboyant visuals and outrageous characters than by its script, the film is not unlike the recent Australian indie hit “Love and Other Catastrophes” in its breezy, nonjudgmental take on sex, love and emotional confusion within a close-knit group of college-age friends. This is juiced up with elements borrowed from “American Gigolo” and “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert,” among others, and black comedy derived from some inconveniences with a corpse that is reminiscent of “Shallow Grave.” But the sense of familiarity is outweighed by the spirited direction and the affection with which the appealing characters are viewed.

Sleek gigolo Max (Nancho Novo) returns to town tailed by a cop and suspected of having murdered one of his clients. While seeking help from a leggy madam with a taste for nubile girls (Bibi Andersen), he insinuates himself back into the life of former lover Yeye (Ingrid Rubio), who still carries a torch for him. She shares an apartment with sexually voracious Monica (Cayetana Guillen Cuervo) and lovelorn Maria (Beatriz Santiago). Rounding out the group is gay art student Alberto (Gustavo Salmeron), who in the opening reel gets down to some steamy sex under the shower with Alex (Javier Albala). But he soon finds his Mr. Right is a husband and father, which quenches his desire, leaving him to get his kicks from some chaste flirtation with straight art-school hunk David (Liberto Rabal).

The loose-limbed plot follows Max’s attempts to regain Yeye’s trust, Maria’s tactics to win nerdy neighbor Carlos (Juan Diego Botto), Monica’s sexual one-upmanship, which eventually backfires on her, and the efforts of a psycho cop (Javier Manrique) to infiltrate the clan. This happens against a backdrop of crowded dance clubs, parties and drug-induced hysteria, presided over by three hilarious drag queens who are both arch and motherly.

While the solving of the sex crime is perhaps the closest thing to a central thread here, the focus is relationships and the treacherous emotional waters the protagonists navigate at breakneck speed. The young cast sparkles right down the line, making the most of the fast, funny dialogue. Santiago, Salmeron and emerging star Rubio, who debuted recently in Carlos Saura’s “Taxi,” are especially engaging.

Very much a fashion statement in its aggressive, psychedelic look, pounding techno tunes and over-the-top costumes, the film zips along, with the absence of a more ironclad narrative structure causing only a minor shortage of steam in the latter half. Despite the excesses of sex and recreational drugs being consumed, AIDS awareness and responsible drug attitudes don’t get a look in.

Not Love, Just Frenzy

Spanish

Production

An Alta Films release (in Spain) of a Fernando Colomo Producciones Cinematograficas production, with participation of Television Espanola, Canal Plus. (International sales: Mainstream, Paris.) Produced by Fernando Colomo, Beatriz de la Gandara. Directed, written by Alfonso Albacete, Miguel Bardem, David Menkes.

Crew

Camera (color), Nestor Calvo; editor, Miguel Angel Santamaria; music, Juan Bardem; art direction, Alain Bainee; costume design, Paloma Lopez, Vito y Vida; sound (Dolby Digital SR), Goldstein & Steinberg; assistant director, Luis Oliveros. Reviewed at San Sebastian Film Festival (Open Zone), Sept. 22, 1996. Running time: 101 MIN.

With

Nancho Novo, Cayetana Guillen Cuervo, Ingrid Rubio, Beatriz Santiago, Gustavo Salmeron, Javier Manrique, Javier Albala, Liberto Rabal, Bibi Andersen, Juan Diego Botto, Daniel Mirabel, Paloma Tabasco, Juanfra Becerra.
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