The feature debut of Venezuelan writer-director Lorenzo Vigas is less a fully realized and inhabited project than a set of symmetries snapping into place.
Middle-aged and resolutely middle-class Armando (Alfredo Castro), a denture specialist, cruises Caracas for rough trade, waving wads of bolívars to lure young men back to his putti-filled apartment. He prefers to look, not touch or be touched — an arrangement violated when brooding brute Elder (Luis Silva, in his first role) bashes Armando and runs off with his wallet and one of those tacky angel figurines. He hit him and it felt like a kiss: The bruised prosthodontist grows ever more intrigued by his feral assailant and soon the two are sharing Armando’s flat.
The psychosexual dynamic between the men, with its feeble intimations of Genet and Pinter, becomes further overdetermined by Armando’s oblique backstory involving his titan-of-industry father. Vigas’s fondness for art-house banalities (excessive back-of-the-head shots, shallow depth of field) makes an already leaden allegory on the class chasm in his economically ravaged country more turgid.
Despite From Afar‘s lumbering solemnity, Castro, a Chilean actor best known for his collaborations with compatriot Pablo Larraín, proves ever supple: When Armando breaks into a smile for the first (and only?) time, the performer’s saturnine face suddenly seems to emit light.
Written and directed by Lorenzo Vigas
Opens June 8, Film Forum