Getting off to a good start, A Thousand Clouds of Peace Fence the Sky, Love; Your Being Love Will Never End begins in the most medias of res: mid blowjob, in a parked car. Later, the dark, handsome man offers the taciturn teen some money and familiar excuses. We’re never quite sure whether we’ve witnessed a one-night stand, a business transaction, or something else entirely. But young Gerardo (blank slate Juan Carlos Ortuño) immediately becomes infatuated with Bruno (Juan Carlos Torres), giving way to dreamlike scenes of all-consuming obsession as cryptic and meandering as the title.
Soon Gerardo is looking to forget love in all the wrong places, primarily a pool hall where he picks up strangers that only remind him of Bruno. Seeing a ’50s Spanish musical on TV, he’s transfixed by Sarita Montiel’s theme song. He waits by the dingy rotary phone for a call that never comes. A note, which may or may not be from Bruno, asks to meet by a bridge, and so Gerardo spends days and nights pacing its sidewalk. Instead of Bruno, he finds hustlers and tricks who offer gnomic philosophizing and little comfort. Occasionally their conversations are muted by voiceovers: repetitions (embellishments?) of Bruno’s purported letter, or of his platitudes that first night.
We begin to worry about the fetishistically recurring torch song and the 360-degree takes and languorous tracking shots of Gerardo against rubble-strewn lots and crumbling, graffitied walls: Are we in some sort of Mexico City Wong Kar-wai hell? Writer-director Julián Hernández’s fussy affectations aren’t turnoffs per se, nor is Diego Arizmendi’s overly precious b&w photography (some Bruce Weber-y nude scenes notwithstanding). But all the stylistic flourishes can’t hide the lack of an actual plot, character development, or point. Like Gerardo, we wait, hoping something will happen, knowing nothing will.