Burnt Money

I didn’t work on photography or images all weekend long. It’s the first time since this project began I have taken a break from any of it. I was able to watch a couple of films that were both excellent. It’s odd I ended up with two films from Argentina for the weekend; both of which have reawakened my long dormant passion for the cinema. Saturday I watched The Secret In Their Eyes but last night’s film was called Burnt Money. It came out in 2000 and is quite probably one of the most brilliant films I have seen in a very long time. I do not mark too many films with a 5 star, but this one I would. To me it was the epitome of the mysterious power of cinema at it’s best. This film worked on so many levels and layers that I was up for hours after I watched it; my mind abuzz processing what I had just seen. This rarely happens to me so when it does I savor the experience as much as possible. I will not tell you the plot because it’s something that has to reveal itself through the process of watching it, but it contains amazing struggle within its characters. I would not classify this film as gay, though two of the main characters are entwined emotionally, sensually, and sexually. These two characters are brilliantly realized by actors Leonardo Sbaraglia and Eduardo Noriega and are at a polar opposition to each other. They are caught in a struggle for an identity of the way we perceive ourselves. One is religiously motivated and his struggle to deal with his sexual identity becomes a moral issue almost to the point where he becomes incapacitated and manifests itself through his hearing voices in his head. The other is the embodiment of raw sexual/sensual self who is driven by love, desire, and carnal lust and is motivated by his passion for a man he so utterly loves that he will allow it to consume him. This really isn’t the plot of the story, which would become the basis of a normal American film, but it is thinly woven within the complexity of the incredible story the filmmakers are trying to tell. What strikes me most about this film is I identify with it completely in the context of my own work and images. It cuts to the core of my own struggle with identity as a man and an artist. It’s the strong subtext from which the images emerge. Yes, though my images are about erotic male and sometimes female figures, this is rarely what the images are actually about. It is the passion and connection one explores and feels within the frame of its existence. The psychology is enhanced with light, color, texture, and composition. It becomes a moment frozen in time. I now know this is why I was so strongly drawn into working in the theater early on and why I am so passionate about watching brilliant cinema. I think the power of all these elements gives us a greater insight into the identity of who we are and becomes the trans-formative power of art. We see this struggle in classic painting particularly those of Caravaggio. Though the struggle for identity has changed through out history it still remains present in great art. My struggle is of my time, as a gay man, exploring my process of socialization through sex, sensuality, health, aging, and a strong desire to connect to a culture that ever remains elusive. Perhaps I put too much into it, but doesn’t it all in the end have to have some sort of meaning. It seems to me we must find dignity in who we are and be able to express and explore what we were truly meant to become. This film does all that in the most powerful way that cinema can. It’s visually stunning, erotically charged, and brilliantly produced on every single level. It is obvious all involved have poured their soul into its production, and it shows. This is what great cinema was meant to be. I often wonder why do so many artisans loose sight of their passion and create such mediocre films. If you are going to take us on a journey, why not make it a good one?

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