Review: ‘Don’t Look Down’

Writer-director vet Eliseo Subiela gets aroused -- and unavoidably ridiculous -- in "Don't Look Down," a virtual instructional guide to Tantric sex.

Indefatigable Argentine writer-director vet Eliseo Subiela gets aroused — and unavoidably ridiculous — in “Don’t Look Down,” a virtual instructional guide to Tantric sex. The older-man/younger-woman combo of helmer’s “Heartlift” is reversed, with a young man being schooled by a seasoned gal in ways to sustain an orgasm to the point of having out-of-body experiences. Incredibly erotic one minute and embarrassingly risible the next, pic’s an odd duck for a once-hot director trying to stage a career comeback. Obvious marketing hooks may or may not translate into steamy overseas and transcontinental theatrical sales, but vid will perform nicely.

A typically eccentric Subiela hero, Eloy (Leandro Stivelman) was trained by his late father (Hugo Arana) in the art of stilt-walking. His day job is more down to earth, as he walks the Buenos Aires streets in fast-food sandwich costumes.

Pic’s heady opening statement — an onscreen Andre Breton quote on the necessity of eros to restore balance to one’s life — is realized in gently comic and fantastic terms when Eloy, an inveterate sleepwalker, literally falls through a sky roof onto the bed of alluring Elvira (exceptionally well-cast Antonella Costa).

A young man’s fantasy come true, this sexy siren from Barcelona appeals to Eloy both above and below the belt, and Elvira’s mystically inclined mom Celia (Maria Elena Ruaz) is convinced that the lad has been sent by God.

Unlike previous stabs at erotic frissons in Subiela’s films, particularly his “Dark Side of the Heart” films, “Don’t Look Down” places heavy lovemaking front and center. No brief bedroom interludes here; the ultra-creative bonking goes on for sustained passages of a sort that seldom has been seen in cinema since the ’70s.

Never one to shy from the completely outlandish, Subiela isn’t content with showing a lusty couple. Elvira is an expert on highly sophisticated Tantric sex positions and the Kama Sutra, which include the man learning to thrust as many as 80 times before climax. Hilariously talking him through the motions like a technician, Elvira gets Eloy to the point where he becomes a maestro, so much so that he gets woozy and envisions himself in other cities, even Elvira’s Barcelona.

Pic can’t help but go limp from this moment on, as Elvira inevitably must return to Spain and Eloy learns of his father’s past affair. “Don’t Look Down” is undeniably entertaining, but it drips with a cloying tone and pleads to be taken more seriously than it deserves. Rather than being content with staging a young man’s wet dream gone wild, Subiela mistakenly caps his film on a drippy note of lost love.

Rendering most of filmdom’s lovemaking thesps as comparatively demure, Stivelman and Costa generate palpable heat onscreen and the necessary sexual athleticism to make auds believe they really are accomplishing the 18 or so positions leading to erotic enlightenment (all of them seen onscreen, for the benefit of future DVD watchers). They’re lovely out of bed as well, and Monica Galan is a charmer in support.

As usual with Subiela, production package is ultra-pro.

Don't Look Down



A Pensa & Rocca Cine production, in co-production with Charivari Films, in association with Orgon Films, Pascual Condito. (International sales: Primer Plano Film Group, Buenos Aires.) Executive producers, Miguel Angel Rocca, Daniel Pensa. Co-producer, Elise Jalladeau. Directed, written by Eliseo Subiela.


Camera (color), Sol Lopatin; editor, Marcela Saenz; music, Pedro Aznar; production designer, Cristina Nigro; costume designer, Griselda Vidal; sound (Ultra Stereo), Guido Barenblum; associate producer, Pascual Condito; assistant director, Karina Sama. Reviewed at Guadalajara Film Festival (Ibero-American Feature Competition), March 9, 2008. Running time: 80 MIN.


Leandro Stivelman, Antonella Costa, Hugo Arana, Monica Galan, Octavio Borro, Maria Elena Ruaz, Marzencka Novak, Viviana Piccolo. (Spanish dialogue)
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