Leon Ichaso’s 2001 film on Puerto Rican poet-writer Miguel Pinero is one of those movies that missed playing locally. Despite the best efforts of the Fine Arts Theatre, it’s inevitable that a few smaller, more experimental films are going to slip past us — and this is one of those. So it’s nice to see that a new film society is presenting it. Is it a great film that “got away?” No, pretty far from it — which may be partly the fault of its subject.
Viewed dispassionately and from a distance, the question arises whether or not Pinero quite deserves the sort of lionization offered by the film. Even in the film, he seems more self-indulgent huckster than creative genius. And there’s the somewhat movie’s reticent nature when it comes to dealing with Pinero’s bisexuality — something that suggests this is somehow unacceptable, though stumbling through life in a drugged-out semi-stupor isn’t, which is a troubling notion to say the least.
However, it’s a fascinating film that attempts to present its subject in the cinematic equivalent of Pinero’s punchy poetry. It’s jumbled, it’s fragmented, it’s a kind of freeform riff on ideas. It doesn’t all work, but, like the poetry it contains, there are moments of power and beauty that keep you watching. It’s also the only film I’ve ever seen where I was really impressed by Benjamin Bratt, a performer I’ve rarely found more than adequate. Here he’s close to brilliant. It’s a performance that should have boosted his career — except almost no one saw it. For this alone, the film would be worth seeing. Rated R for drug use, strong language and sexuality.
– reviewed by Ken Hanke