There isn’t much of a call for sequels in the arthouse world, but then there aren’t many auteurs with the intellectual restlessness, heart-on-the-sleeve lustiness and overall sheer chutzpah of Argentina’s Eliseo Subiela. Helmer’s latest, “The Dark Side of the Heart 2,” follows up last year’s career-capping “The Adventures of God” with a cheeky, sexy, elegant new chapter in the further adventures of restless artist long thought to be helmer’s doppelganger and his search for the ideal woman. Knowledge of first pic isn’t necessary to enjoy this one, suggesting solid arthouse biz and modest cult status, with vigorous ancillary to follow.
Ten years after events of first pic, self-described “lazy, badly-strung poet” Oliverio (Dario Grandinetti) is still moping around Buenos Aires in a black trench coat, still pondering life’s big questions, still looking for a woman who can literally fly, and still dumping the rejects down a trap door cleverly installed on the guest side of his bed (only his hair has changed; it’s mostly gone).
Sexy Miranda (Carolina Peleritti), nicknamed “The Eel” for her charged kisses, seems to be the answer but turns out only to want stability and a long-term relationship. Crushed, Oliverio travels to Barcelona in search of former soulmate Ana (Sandra Ballesteros), prostie from first edition, who gives him a tumble but is now settled with a teenaged daughter.
Dogged at every turn by sinister specters of Death (Nacha Guevara, also from first pic) and “new persecutor” Time (Manuel Bandera), Oliverio spies lovely circus acrobat Alejandra (Ariadna Gil) on a poster and heads south to the Spanish seaside resort of Sitges to woo her. A battle of wills ensues, as the man who insists on extraordinary women but shies away from commitment is forced to literally walk a tightrope without a net to prove his love — after which he claims to “know the trick for holding back death and time” and whispers it in her ear.
As with most synopses of Subiela’s films, plot sounds heavy-handed and more than a little self-aggrandizing. Yet pic sings on the twin strengths of Subiela’s obvious commitment to material and cast’s straight-faced reading of it.Tech credits are pro, highlighted by Teo Delgado’s burnished lensing. Pic was shot in Buenos Aires, Barcelona and Sitges (site of the long-running fantasy film fest, where Subiela won the screenwriting award for his 1995 work “Don’t Die Without Telling Me Where You’re Going”) and preemed in Montreal, where original copped the top prize in 1992.