Broken Sky

2006, Movie, NR, 140 mins

Review

BROKEN SKY | EL CIELO DIVIDIDO
starstarstarstar
Less self-consciously arty and determinedly poetic than his black-and-white feature debut, Julian Hernandez's follow-up to A THOUSAND CLOUDS OF PEACE (2004) charts the heady flowering and slow death of a seemingly perfect love between two young Mexico City university students who learn the truth of Aristophanes' cosmology of love the hard way. As one professor reminds us, the ancient Greek philosopher-playwright believed that long ago androgens — same- and opposite-sex couples joined together into a perfect whole by their complementary love — were separated by an angry, punishing Zeus and condemned to wander the Earth as lonely singles, searching for their lost soul mates. At the outset, Jonas and Gerardo appear to be such reunited lovers: They can barely keep their hands or lips to themselves, even in public — youthful maintenance worker Sergio (Alejandro Rojo) spots them kissing in the library stacks — and are so inseparable that each moment apart seems an eternity. But alas, no love lasts forever. One night at a club, as Gerardo tries to ditch a smitten Sergio, Jonas meets another boy; though they only dance for a few minutes, he becomes obsessed. Now, whenever Jonas kisses Gerardo, Jonas imagines he's making love to this stranger, and he's having trouble keeping his new crush a secret from Gerardo, whose pain goes beyond simple jealousy. Gerardo reaches out, but Jonas only pulls away, and all attempts at reconciliation fail. Their once-perfect love has been irredeemably disrupted, and it's uncertain either boy will ever love so intensely again. This is by any definition an art film: It's slow-moving, there's virtually no dialogue throughout its two-and-a-half-hour running time, and the whole thing kicks off with an oblique quote from Marguerite Duras' HIROSHIMA MON AMOUR. But don't be put off: Hernandez's exquisite romance works on an emotional, as well as intellectual, level. The slow, languorous pacing, beautiful low-light cinematography, sensual and perfectly timed slow-pans, effectively spare use of romantic pop music, and acutely mapped heartbreak suggest Hernandez has learned a few lessons from contemporary Taiwanese director Tsai Ming-liang and his spiritual mentor, Hou Hsiao-hsien. If these names mean anything to you, you won't want to miss this nearly perfect work of art; if they don't and you're feeling adventurous, you might want to give this one a try. leave a comment --Ken Fox

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