Review: ‘Sangre’

An ordinary working class couple leads a mundane existence until something quite exceptional intervenes, in "Sangre." Hypnotically banal in content but strangely riveting in execution, whatever the opposite of an action picture is, this is it. But the echo left by non-pro thesps in Amat Escalante's feature debut lingers on to agreeably haunting effect.

An absolutely ordinary working class couple leads a mundane existence until something quite exceptional intervenes, in “Sangre.” Hypnotically banal in content but strangely riveting in execution, whatever the opposite of an action picture is, this is it. But where many an action flick with recognizable stars evaporates once it’s over, the echo left by non-pro thesps in scripter-helmer-editor Amat Escalante’s feature debut lingers on to agreeably haunting effect.

Diego (Cirilo Recio) and his second wife Blanca (Laura Saldana) live in a modest apartment. Balding, slightly cross-eyed and paunchy, Diego is nothing to look at and his customary expression is one of shell-shocked fatigue. But Blanca loves him with a carnal jealousy worthy of the insipid evening soap operas they watch together while eating junk food on their ratty sofa.

Blanca works in a fast food joint and Diego is a door guard at a municipal building. Apparently uninterested in — or incapable of — conversation, the spouses say little. When they do speak, it’s in terse direct reference to sleep, food or sex. Full-frontal nudity that nobody will be pirating for the Internet accompanies their unglamorous conjugal rutting.

When he gets a phone call, a chain of events is set in motion for which the unsophisticated Diego lacks any but the most rudimentary coping mechanism.

Widescreen lensing is keenly attuned to inchoate sorrow and flickers of apparent contentment alike. World cinema is hatching more and more films in which “nothing happens” — until something does. Although he has almost certainly seen the Flanders-set films of Bruno Dumont (“The Life of Jesus,” “Humanity”), Escalante’s skilled minimalist take on lives of barely audible desperation is entirely his own.

Sangre

Mexico-France

Production

An Ad Vitam release (in France) of a Mantarraya, Tres Tunas, No Dream Cinema (Mexico) production in association with Ad Vitam Prods. (France), Estudios Churubusco Aztzca (Mexico) with support from the Hubert Bals Fund and Eugene Carpenter Jr.. (International sales: Funny Balloons, Paris.) Produced by Jaime Romandia, Amat Escalante, Carlos Reygadas. Directed, written by Amat Escalante;

Crew

Camera (color, widescreen), Alex T. Fenton; editor, Amat Escalante; production designer, Daniela Schneider; sound (Dolby), Raul Locatelli; assistant director, Pedro Aguilera. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival, (Un Certain Regard), May 12, 2005. Running time: 87 MIN.

With

Cirilo Recio, Laura Saldana, Claudia Orozco.
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