2 November 2008 | eyal philippsborn
A movie that will leave you wanting to leave the movie theater
You know how sometimes a movie really reminds you of another movie you saw, not because of obvious reasons such as plot similarities, duplicated characters, suspiciously identical quotes etc. but because of another reason, a little less evident but existent nonetheless. I associate Chaotic Ana with "Stealing Beauty", a romantic drama by Bernardo Bertolucci that made Liv Tyler a household name. seemingly one has to be slightly hallucinated to associate Stealing Beauty with a fantasy/occult movie and like I said earlier, the reason is subtle but it still exists. Ana (the mind-blowingly beautiful Manuela Vellés in a good performance) is a painter who lives with her father in a cave (seriously, an actual cave) when one day, she is spotted by an artists' patron (Charlotte Rampling ) who immediately identifies her talent and asks her to join the artists greenhouse she runs in Madrid. Ana who is very close to her father is a little reluctant at first but ultimately decides to cultivate her passion for art, preferably in a modern day dwelling. Ana is acquainted with other artists that share her artistic vision and propensity to avoid coherent statements (I will elaborate about that later on) but one man draws her attention, Said (pronounced Sa-Id), an enigmatic painter who grew up in a rural area of a north African, trauma ridden, country. How he got from there to the artists' house is anyone's guess. Ana and Said fall in love and conduct a passionate and highly explicit romance. One day, though, Said disappears for no reason. At the same time, Ana discovers that her dreamless sleep and peculiar visions originate in a startling fact in her past. To avoid spoilers, I will not elaborate too much on that fact but like I stated earlier, this movie deals with the occult so if you hate the sixth sense because you're too old to believe in ghosts, this movie is probably not your cup of truffles-juice (no tea in this movie, it's way too normal to be consumed)
Ana, aided with the French patron and an American "occult professional" (Asier Newman Who unfortunately, struggled too much with his coarse Spanish to give a good performance), decides to search her destiny in light of these revelations. These revelations are abundant with cultural references, Flashbacks, scenery shots etc. but they all lack one crucial ingredient- sense.
Sense is usually a missing ingredient in the films that deal with the occult but the sense I refer to is not the fact oriented sense. It's the sense of the characters state of mind and disposition that makes them genuine. The endless theories about the nature of men and women might seem offensive to some or ridiculous to others but to me they seem the clear cut symptom of the film's artificiality. Hearing the characters lay out their philosophies, listening to them converse, and watching them react to certain situations, make you wonder in what bizarro world this code of conduct is considered common or even acceptable. And if that's not sufficient enough to depreciate the film's cinematic worth, the blunt and redundant sex scenes as well as the stereotypical background stories deteriorate the film to good guys/bad guys dichotomy usually common in Road runner cartoons. By "stereotypical stories" I mean the stories that are too clichéd and metaphorical to be authentic, for example: Said that was abducted from his family by soldiers, Ana's friend, Linda that was abandoned by her father, the encounter American official who "made" the war (no, I don't know what that means either) and the list goes on and on.
I feel a bit reluctant to criticize a film that was made from such a personal and painful viewpoint (the director made this movie in his deceased sister's memory and incorporated her paintings throughout the film). I can't think of a more difficult task to translate personal loss to the big screen. I have no knowledge or skill to determine whether the character of Ana is based on Hulio Medem's deceased sister but I can say with a great deal of confidence that the world depicted in this movie doesn't fit to the planet we all live in.
If you recall (which I doubt it), I mentioned that this film reminded me of Stealing beauty, Liv Tyler's big breakthrough. That film was highly acclaimed at the time so I rushed to see it and ended up bitterly disappointed. I believe that many critics who wrote in glowing terms of Stealing beauty's behalf, spent the movie mesmerized by Liv's infinite charm and sex appeal and overlooked the film's overall qualities. Manuela Vellés has the same undefinable quality and I can only assume her name will be known to many in the future.
Hopefully in more coherent films.
4 out of 10 in my FilmOmeter.