Review: ‘Smokers Only’

Falling for a bisexual hustler is probably never the heterosexual woman's best bet, but Argentinean writer-helmer Veronica Chen's debut feature insists on scrutinizing that poor choice with glum, pretentious seriousness. Low-budget drama is a walk on the "dark side" that moves far more slowly than limited character insight requires.

Falling for a bisexual hustler is probably never the heterosexual woman’s best bet, but Argentinean writer-helmer Veronica Chen’s debut feature insists on scrutinizing that poor choice with glum, pretentious seriousness. Low-budget drama is a walk on the “dark side” that moves far more slowly than limited character insight requires. Offshore prospects are slight.

Vaguely punkish Reni (Cecilia Bengolea) has already alienated the alt-rock band she (poorly) fronts and is at a loss as to her next move. Chance collides her with rollerblading free spirit Andres (Leonardo Brezicki), a likewise 20-year-old street gigolo quite content to excel at his apparently chosen profession. Reni can’t help getting possessive once they’ve entered a nonpaying mutual relationship, however. Indeed, heroine’s angstful, eventually suicidal self-absorption invites less sympathy than impatience, though directorial p.o.v. seems to think otherwise. Verite-style atmospherics, credible sex scenes and Brezicki’s perf lend some grit to mannered pic that’s clearly a personal statement, albeit a not-so-flattering, emotionally opaque one.

Smokers Only

Argentina

Production

A Serene Skylight, Ezeiza Films and B/D/Cine production. Produced by Donald K. Ranvaud. Directed by Veronica Chen. Screenplay, Chen, in collaboration with Alejandro Sapognikoff.

Crew

Camera (color), Nicolas Theodossiou; editor, Chen; music, Edgardo Rudnitzky; art director, Julian D'Angiolillo. Reviewed at Montreal Film Festival (Cinema of Tomorrow), Sept. 1, 2001. Running time: 87 MIN.

With

Cecilia Bengolea, Leonardo Brezicki, Adrian Fondari, Pablo Razuk, Adrian Blanco, Carlos Issa, Fernando Moumdjian, Juan Martin Gravina.
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