In “Hot Moon,” Spanish vet Vicente Aranda continues to mine his traditional themes of passion and politics, but with vastly diminished results. Set in the ’70s — and mostly looking as if it were made then — this story of a poet who falls victim to the charms of a femme fatale, with tragic results, could have been hailed as a Spanish groundbreaker 40 years ago but now looks passe and carelessly made. Only diehard Aranda fans will take an interest; locally, the Feb. 5 release opened far from hot.
Mempo Giardinelli’s original novel is set in Argentina, but Aranda has relocated it to Spain at the time of the famous Burgos trials, when Basque terrorists were controversially condemned to death by the ailing Franco regime. Juan (Eduard Fernandez) has returned from exile in Paris and, at the house of Republican Dr. Muniente (Emilio Gutierrez Caba), falls for his daughter, dangerously young Ramona (Thais Blume). She unaccountably comes on to him, and Juan rapes her and leaves her for dead.
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While trying to escape, Juan kills Muniente; soon Ramona reappears, telling Juan she actually enjoyed being raped. Meanwhile, a police inspector (Jose Coronado, the pic’s best thing) is sniffing around and, in one magnificently bizarre scene, interrogates Juan in a graveyard just after Juan has had sex with Ramona at her father’s funeral. The arrival of the cops opens up a noirish strand about political corruption that soon becomes incoherent.
Fernandez, a quietly tense performer, often ensures quality, but here struggles with a script that makes no attempt to explain why he rapes and kills. Many scenes are introduced by onscreen quotes — some invented, and often on the Jekyll & Hyde theme — that seem designed to inject some intellectual heft into a movie that wobbles uncertainly between the literal and the metaphorical.
Tech credits are low-budget. Film’s attitude toward rape, supplemented by some un-PC statements by Aranda, have whipped up some local media interest.