film note and gallery: Actos impuros

Roberto Fiesco's early short features a sex-hating serial killer and regular readers know how I feel about that. However, it's beautiful and presages the masterful work to come.

Actos Impuros
(Lewd Acts)
Directed by Roberto Fiesco Trejo
23 min, México, 1993

Not as ravishing as his later masterpieces, Trémulo (2015) and David (2005), and lacking their joy, energy, and movement (there’s exactly one, brief, lateral dolly shot), this 24-minute short nevertheless displays Fiesco’s affinity for classic European art-film form and style, split framing, human gestures and shapes gravid with import and allusion, and of course, the eroticization of the male body, amply represented here by Oscar Trejo Lara.

I wish I could say that those substantial strengths made up for the awkwardly directed sex scenes and the deterministic narrative. This tale of a tortured machista bathhouse worker who terminates both his male and female lovers looks great (thanks to the equally talented DP Diego Arizmendi who also shot Mil nubes de paz and Vivir, among many other good-looking movies) but goes nowhere except… down the stairs and into the light?

Still, for a first film it’s impressive and points the way for the mastery that was still to come. João Pedro Rodrigues seems to have watched this one at least once for tips on how to write and shoot toilet-cruising scenes. Co-writer and great Mexican auteur Julián Hernández might have borrowed a thing or two from Actos Impuros, as well, a little later in his own filmography.

Fiesco himself, as far as I can tell, never returned to this sort of dour and violent material. I’m for one glad that his outlook and output got brighter.


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