Cinema, reality, and fiction combined in this extremely well-crafted film, also photographed and written by Argentinian director Manuel Abramovich, with a screenplay in collaboration with Fernando Krapp and Pio Longo.
Pornomelancholia is a compelling portrait of loneliness in the times of social media where there is no place for privacy. It is a coproduction from Argentina, Brazil and France set in contemporary México acknowledging properly the Mexican culture.
In the first sequence, a tall disquiet man in his mid-30s is standing alone in a busy street of an unnamed city (CDMX), seems he is longing for something or someone; suddenly, he begins to sob, and eventually we get to know his name is Lalo Santos.
The device known as the smartphone is essential to the story, it is Lalo´s main tool of work, almost his way of living. Through camera images, text messages, tweets, and posts, we are introduced to Lalo´s daily life. He works for a living in a factory, and there he makes erotic self-portraits to be posted later with precise text such as: In case you need something done…
We also watch Lalo at a medical clinic in a routine interview after a blood test, him receiving his payment at the factory and arguing about the amount he is getting, him exercising himself (and more) in an open-air area and its surroundings … all these give us ideas about a cryptic man in need of money to balance his income and to send some to his mother to whom he often calls or sends voice messages. There is a moving sequence of still photos of Lalo as a child and teenager accompanied by the voice of non-other than Pedro Infante.
Thanks to social media Lalo learns Mecos Films offers money for doing porn, they require a photo of the face and naked body with an erection. He likes to be seen so he auditions and is hired. The film introduces us to gay porn movie-making with visual references to Colt in the 1970s and how this culture has changed due to Twitter via Only Fans.
The docufiction shows explicit sex, nudity, the mechanics and complexities of film production, the people involved (cast and crew), the time required (hours and hours of repetitions) to make it, and everything in between. The genre of porn needs special skills though…
A movie into a movie, Mecos Films has the daring proposal of a subversive script, a fantasy on the Mexican Revolution with its most prominent leaders… the venerated figures of Emiliano Zapata and Francisco Villa are presented as attracted to each other and compared to two studs grabbing their balls while breathing heavily… Additionally, after the main script was finished, the production team planned another sequence inspired by a twisted glimpse of Luis Buñuel´s That Obscure Object of Desire, starring again Emiliano Zapata, this time at the rhythm of Mi pregunta by Monte Albán Trío.
This subversion reminds me of the exhibition after Zapata, the group show Emiliano Zapata después de Zapata at Palacio de Bellas Artes in 2019, and specifically to the polemic that three years ago surrounded Fabián Cháirez painting.
The conversations among the cast members while filming porn provides information about themselves, many layers, and depth. They are sincere and eloquent dialogues on topics such as sex work, mental health as well as living with HIV nowadays and how it is radically different compared to the 1980s and 1990s when there was no light on the horizon. The men who speak are from a new generation that knows about the virus and refer to HIV/AIDS after its external manifestations (skinny bodies with spots), we all are living in the times of PEP and PREP.
The film belongs to Lalo Santos, the camera loves him. He has a powerful presence and gives a natural performance full of nuances and mystery, and if you watch the film you will find out. Lalo has a bitter aftertaste of the film and he posted a tweet you may read here. I want to remark on something said in the footage, its title may have been Lalo Santos: A Story of Pornomelancholia. Lalo is the long-distance runner winner of this unforgettable audiovisual project.
The film, not for all tastes, makes a statement on contemporary movie making.
Pornomelancholia was recognized as Best Film at the Merlinka Queer Fim Award, also at the Festival International du film independent de Bordeaux (FIFIB) 2022, and was nominated for the Sebastiane Award 2022. Manuel Abramovich won the Jury Prize for Best Cinematography at San Sebastian International Film Festival
P.S. If interested, you may follow Lalo´s account (@LaloOaxaca) on Twitter
Review by José Mayorga , Guatemala, Central America lawyer and notary public, visual artist, and editor of El Azar Cultural, lives and works in Guatemala City. Cinema lover, curious about the possibilities life brings and eager to live the experience.