After making a name in Mexican theater, Antonio Serrano has turned his own successful stage play "Sex, Shame and Tears" into a talky but often amusing film about a group of yuppies who have failed to live up to their own expectations, professionally and amorously. Briskly paced and boasting well-turned performances, pic could earn muchos pesos at the local B.O. (it won the audience award at the Guadalajara Film Festival). However, a sense of deja vu could hinder its appeal in foreign markets.

After making a name in Mexican theater, Antonio Serrano has turned his own successful stage play “Sex, Shame and Tears” into a talky but often amusing film about a group of yuppies who have failed to live up to their own expectations, professionally and amorously. Briskly paced and boasting well-turned performances, pic could earn muchos pesos at the local B.O. (it won the audience award at the Guadalajara Film Festival). However, a sense of deja vu could hinder its appeal in foreign markets.

Serrano sets the action in two opposing apartments in a posh neighborhood. In the first flat, hedonist Ana (Susana Zabaleta) is fed up with husband Carlos’ (Victor Hugo Martin) navel-gazing and holistic manners, which have resulted in a very unsatisfying sex life. Longtime buddy — and Ana’s old love — Tomas (Damian Bichir) returns from a trip around the world and is invited to stay with the couple.

Across the street, something similar is happening: High-strung ex-model Andrea (Cecilia Suarez) is fed up with the constant infidelities of spouse Miguel (Jorge Salinas), a thriving advertising exec who brings home former girlfriend Maria (Monica Dionne), just back in town after separating from her husband in Africa.

Soon old flames are rekindled, and domestic crises ensue. The two couples split, and a new arrangement is worked out: The guys move together in one of the apartments, while the girls follow suit in the other.

The title is more than a spin on WWII phrase “blood, sweat and tears.” It’s also the narrative structure in a nutshell. At first, most of the characters, especially free-spirited and serial womanizer Tomas, try to get some sexual gratification from the new situation. In response, sanctimonious Carlos and Andrea impose a chastity vow. Since introspective moods are in order, the males go into deep funk about missed opportunities and wrong existential choices. Even Tomas gets mopey about the time he’s wasted being a goof-off, carrying pic to an unconvincingly tragic denouement.

Up to that last part, Serrano keeps things moving with a nimble mise en scene unmarked by any staginess. He also works in a visual concept of reflection, as each character has a counterpart from the opposite sex and the activities in one apartment are mirrored in the other. Although some acting goes over the top, perfs generally give “Sex, Shame and Tears” a boost. In particular, Bichir confirms his rep as the young leading actor of choice in Mexican cinema.

Perez Grobet’s lensing is suitably glossy, and popster Alek Syntek’s score enhances the mood of disenchanted yuppiedom.

Sex, Shame and Tears

(COMEDY -- MEXICAN)

Production

A Titan & SPL production in association with Imcino, Argos Cino. Executive producers, Matthias Ehrenberg, Christian Valdelievre. Directed, written by Antonio Serrano, based on his play.

Crew

Camera (color), Xavier Perez Grobet; editor, Samuel Larson; music, Aleks Syntek; art director, Brigitte Broch; sound (Dolby Stereo) Lena Esquenazi. Reviewed at Guadalajara Film Festival, March 12, 1999. Running time: 107 MIN.

With

Tomas ..... Demian Bichir Ana ..... Susana Zabaleta Maria ..... Monic Dionne Miguel ..... Jorge Salinas Andrea ..... Cecilia Suarez Carlos ..... Victor Huggo Martin Carlos' mother ..... Angelica Aragon

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