An Argentine writer dying of AIDS searches for a medical cure and some human warmth in the hospitals and S&M clubs of Buenos Aires in dignified, thoughtful drama “A Year Without Love.” Though punctuated by fairly graphic bondage action, pic should ride its Berlin fest Teddy queer film award for best narrative feature to at least a year’s worth of love on the niche fest circuit, with specialty arthouse action and cult ancillary to follow.
From the flat he shares with an addled aunt (Mimi Ardu), gaunt and lonely scribe and AIDS patient Pablo (Juan Minujin) forces himself to write, while composing personal ads that quietly beg “take me as slave or master” and making ends meet as a French tutor. It’s April 1996, and though the then-new Anti-Retroviral cocktail therapy is showing promise, Pablo frets that these and other therapies could be lethal.
At the same time he seeks to ease his physical suffering, he tries to soothe his emotional pain by cruising gay clubs looking for that one last great love. When he falls in with a shadowy bondage crowd, Pablo discovers a way to transform the pain of his disease into an extreme form of pleasure.
Distaff helmer Anahi Berneri alternates between long lenses and jarring, fragmentary close-up shots, creating an assured and forceful visual cocktail that serves grim quest well. Minujin infuses Pablo with a quiet dignity, though the moral issues inherent in his search for love while fighting off the disease are never overtly addressed. Bondage sequences will have the desired effect, both on fans and opponents.
Pic is based on the published diary of co-scripter Pablo Perez. Producing team also made last year’s Berlin competish prize-winning “Lost Embrace,” now rolling out Stateside. Berlin’s Teddy jury cited new work “for an uncompromising densely textured portrayal of one man dealing with loneliness and AIDS that will challenge audiences.”