In Mexican tyro helmer Alonso Pineda-Ulloa's "Vanilla Sky"-type psychological thriller, "Love, Pain & Vice-Versa," one woman's dream turns out to be another man's nightmare. Pineda relies heavily on surprise twists and turns, and on the chemistry of matching sexpots Barbara Mori and Leonard Sbaraglia to sweep viewers along in a torrent of atmospheric stylings.

In Mexican tyro helmer Alonso Pineda-Ulloa’s “Vanilla Sky”-type psychological thriller, “Love, Pain & Vice-Versa,” one woman’s dream turns out to be another man’s nightmare. Pineda relies heavily on surprise twists and turns, and on the chemistry of matching sexpots Barbara Mori and Leonard Sbaraglia to sweep viewers along in a torrent of atmospheric stylings. But the slick pic pulls one too many rabbits out of its hat, disturbing even the voyeuristic dream/waking, his/her symmetry that takes the place of character and plot development. American distrib Panamax will have to sell this one on looks alone.

Upscale architect Chelo (Mori) has never met a flesh-and-blood man who could measure up to the dream lover she rendezvous with in vivid detail every night. Determined to bring him into the waking world, she devises the bizarre scheme of roughing herself up and claiming she has been raped in order to set the police on the trail of the man who visits her in her dreams.

Soon, through a one-way glass, she is staring at the accused: Dr. Marquez (Sbaraglia), a respected cardiologist. Shortly afterward, Chelo is being pursued by Marquez, who definitely does not have romance on his mind.

Meanwhile, in Marquez’s analogous narrative, which begins to intersect with hers in flashbacks, the doctor is preparing to wed the lovely Marcela (Marina de Tavira), his happiness disturbed only by nightmares in which he is shot and killed by a woman who looks remarkably like Chelo.

As it turns out, much was left unrevealed in Chelo’s version of events, which explain why Marquez is following her. But, unlike “Mulholland Drive,” for instance, filmmakers convey no sense of whether Chelo has any consciousness memory of those events, whether she is delusional or whether scripter Alex Marino and helmer Pineda just left out whole chunks of the story to confound the audience.

Unfortunately, the fractured fantasies fail to add up on even a symbolic level, as the pic builds to a dream-doubled climax that has little to do with motivation and everything to do with a notion of heightened cinematic suspense, complete with swelling music and fatefully repeated gestures. Upscale, glossy modernity meets over-the-top meller, somewhere in dreamland.

Tech credits are impressively derivative.

Love, Pain & Vice-Versa

Mexico - Spain - U.S.

Production

A Panamax release of a Lemon Films/Filmax Entertainment production. Produced by Nick Spicer, Billy Rovzar, Fernando Rovzar, Julio Fernandez. Executive producers, James M. McNamara, Benjamin Odell, Carlos Fernandez, Alex Garcia. Co-producer, Alexis Fridman. Co-executive producer, Antonia Nava. Directed by Alonso Pineda-Ulloa. Written by Alex Marino, based on a short story by Blas Valdez.

Crew

Camera (color, widescreen), Damian Garcia; editor, Jorge Macaya; music, Roque Banos; production designer, Sandra Cabriada; costume designer, Adela Cortazar; sound (Dolby Digital), Andres Franco; casting, Manuel Teil. Reviewed at Tribeca Film Festival (competing), April 29, 2008. (Also in Cannes Film Festival -- market.) Running time: 86 MIN.

With

Barbara Mori, Leonardo Sbaraglia, Marina De Tavira, Joaquin Cosio, Irene Azuela, Tony Dalton. (Spanish dialogue)

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