Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 8 / 22 February 2018

Bad Peruvian trip


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I don't know when the last time is I watched a Peruvian film. After Videofilia (and Other Viral Syndromes), I'm not sure when the next time will be, but I hope it's far, far in the future. Yes, the title is great, and director Juan Daniel F. Molero is ambitious and savvy enough to position his film as his country's Oscar hopeful, but at an hour and 50 minutes, Videofilia winds up looking like a self-indulgent exercise in editing across visual platforms that ultimately merge in a sloppy psychedelic soup of porn-fueled machismo undercutting any claim to originality. You can see it or not at the Roxie Theater starting tomorrow, Jan. 6.

I adore the premise, or do I mean the promise of Videofilia : film as a form of altered consciousness integrating earthquakes, military psy ops, angels, pornography, sexual slavery, urban sniper videogames, cosmetic surgery,  virtual reality glasses, snuff films, lysergic acid, Mayan ritual sacrifice, witchcraft, cosplay, rats, percussion, found footage, and amateur actors. Okay, I could do without the snuff films, but I respect any artist or philosopher's attempt to include everything in the world, not just a narrow corner.

Molero's mixology is technically a heady cocktail, but his narrative sucks. The misogyny is pervasive and oppressive, I mean literally, sucks the pleasure out of the film. That such a hate-filled manifesto gets this far in the Oscar sweepstakes – which, okay, is not really very far, because when's the last time Peru won an Oscar? But still, brother, what a dismaying kick-off to the films of 2017 to have this paean to the penis taking up space at the Roxie, that purported forward-viewing establishment. I mean "penis" as the sine qua non of personhood, a position the Vatican fully supports. Fuck the Pope.

The narrative is hard to follow, on purpose, to make room for the visuals, which have a borderline documentary feel, creating a sense of immersion into the filmed world. So far, so good, except did Molero, does anyone, really need almost two hours of my time to let me know men exploit women through technology? I guess he does, if he wants to rub my nose in it, which he does with gusto, until I finally reach the conclusion that no, this is not a truly revolutionary denunciation of the degrading effects of sexual commodification, but a winking celebration of the ongoing enslavement and hatred of women.

The hero is a budding pornographer who pimps his girlfriend via DVD: that's the plot. To kill time, Molero lets his male characters theorize and his female characters discuss nose jobs. As two men watch a pixelated version of our hero's gyrating victim, they hit pause to philosophize. "There's no more reality or virtual reality. Everything's been mixed up in this world. Reality is like this screen. All pixelated and fragmented. You'll never find a pattern to it. But you just gotta roll with it." Maybe this sense of displacement is why men cling to their antiquated cult of machismo. As long as men can enslave women, really, what does the disintegration of consciousness matter?

The film itself devolves into just one more agent of disintegration or degradation, by reiterating found images and messages without finding a way to reintegrate spirit into our era's demonic technology. Molero's is an arrogantly masculinist vision in which men have the magic, the machines, the murdering rage, and women are second-class citizens or chattel along for the ride, groupies who listen and admire but have no meaningful agency. Videofilia will do well in the straight-to-streaming young pothead market. Upside: if you make it all the way through the film, you'll emerge into actually real reality to realize it's not so bad as you thought.

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