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Vera and the Pleasure of Others (Vera y el Placer de los Otros)

Argentinian coming-of-age drama features sex scene after sex scene, with a bizarre twist of Jean-Luc Godard thrown in - from the First Feature Competition of the 27th Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival


Vera ( Luciana Grasso) is bored of her life. Volleyball stifles her, education irritates her, and her parents – especially her stuffy mother (played by Inés Estevez) – embarrasses her. What excites Vera is sex – not especially her personal life, but the coitus that her friends enjoy. She charges couples 500 pesos to copulate in a property owned by her mother, and listens to the moaning, hissing and occasional orgasms that spit through the walls. One day her mother arrives to the apartment with a co-worker, and Vera is shocked to find her parent enjoying the same earthly delights as her friends. Coming-of-age becomes cuming-of-age. Confused by this revelation, Vera spends nights lurking the Argentinian streets, until she decides to face her demons by engaging in a sexual relationship with a couple.This may sound like a dirty remake of Breathless (Jean-Luc Godard, 1960), but what should be a tasty throwback to the 1960s occasionally comes off as desperate. The film follows sex scene after sex scene, and most of them are beautifully filmed. Estevez, who should have an interesting character journey as an unfulfilled parent, is largely wasted here, as directors Federico Actis & Romina Tamburello focus most of their attention on the teenager, and her uncontrollable lust. The (admittedly excellent) soundtrack is littered with vocalisations, mimicking the sex that swims in Vera’s mind on almost daily basis. What the audience doesn’t see is emulated orally during the sex scenes, as hissing and kisisng makes its way through the speakers.It’s to Grasso’s credit that she commits to the various sex scenes – some of them fantastical, others decidedly intimate. Vera masturbates to the memory of two friends kissing, their mouths intertwined in her mind and heart. Thankfully, the film also shows the less satisfying side of sex, particularly in the opening moments, as we witness a woman lying to her boyfriend about his supposed “skills”. It later transpires that Vera is so disappointed in her life that she has to turn to other people to get the satisfaction she needs.The authenticity serves the film, but regrettably, the creative team discards many of the pertinent points that are discussed between parents and children on a daily basis. The mother provides her daughter with the pill, but that’s the extent of their involvement. When the parents finally discover the extent of their daughter’s depravity, they seem more bemused and inconvenienced than startled. Vera confronts her mother about her own sexual appetite, but the conversation ends almost as quickly as it starts. Nothing in the film is developed; everything is premature.The biggest shortcoming is that the relationship between the mother and daughter is not given enough heart. Considering Grasso’s acting ability, as well as Estevez’s, this would have added another dimension to the work. What we get is strong, if a little hurried in its execution, positioning the viewer in an odd place where it has sensed a flavour of the conflict that has otherwise been dealt with offscreen. There is a lack of moral code in the film, and infuriatingly, the picture doesn’t highlight the dangers of sex addiction. Vera’s voyeuristic tendencies have put her in a difficult position, not least because she unwittingly spotted her mother in mid coitus. The script does nothing to highlight the pressure Vera has put on her parents.But where the film is strong is in its soundtrack. Bolstered by a rock-heavy backdrop, the film exhibits an interest in engaging with a more rebellious sound. Guitars chime and thunder; keyboards pound in the backdrop. Where the film is lacking in dimension, the soundtrack is suffused with adventure and finesse. The film becomes a more visceral ride, in part because the soundtrack is so involving. And boy, does the soundtrack come to its own…climax….

Vera and the Pleasure of Others just premiered at the First Feature Competition of the 27th Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival.

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