Review: A Thousand Clouds of Peace


Films can be bad without being boring, as anyone who’s been to a midnight screening of Showgirls can attest to. And films can even be boring without being bad, as is the case with Tsai Ming-liang’s lethargic but brilliant Goodbye, Dragon Inn. To be both bad and boring, however, is quite another story, as evidenced by Mexican writer-director Julián Hernández’ A Thousand Clouds of Peace. The film follows Gerardo (Juan Carlos Ortuño), a young man distraught after breaking up with his lover, Bruno (Juan Carlos Torres), as he trudges through the streets of Mexico City. He cruises for anonymous sex in the pool bar where he works, searches a flea market for a record of Bruno’s favorite song, and gets beaten up by a prospective partner, all the while pining for Bruno in flashbacks. This is the full extent of the plot, and along the way Hernández subjects the audience to Gerardo’s every sigh, every pensive glance—all lensed through faux-gritty black-and-white photography and dolly shots reminiscent of early-’80s music videos. Add to this the fact that Hernández’ lead isn’t a professional actor, a fact which becomes painfully obvious every time he deadpans one of his too-eloquent lines, and you’ve got a recipe for a ponderous snoozefest. But even if Hernández had trimmed this 80-minute film in half, there’s still the irksome reality that Hong Kong auteur Wong Kar-wai already filmed a far superior version of a gay breakup in 1997’s Happy Together. Hernández has obviously seen Wong’s film, as he cribs one of the director’s trademarks with the soundtrack’s repetition of a nostalgic song. It’s a nice touch, but it isn’t enough to save his movie from collapsing under the weight of its own pretensions. Like hanging out with a friend who’s just been dumped, watching A Thousand Clouds of Peace is an experience too monotonous to be interesting and too piteous to be enjoyable.


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January 2009
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