Cinema Libre // 2009 // 99 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Daryl Loomis // May 20th, 2011
When now is all you've got.
Now & Later isn't the first single scenario sex movie I've reviewed and I'm sure it won't be the last. My tolerance for them, even at their worst, seems limitless, and it isn't hard for me to see why. Outside the confines of context and plot, these stories can indulge on both the deepest and most shallow levels. The characters themselves aren't even that important, provided that the dialog is strong and the sex is hot. These films must be judged on these criteria alone; anything else is asking for more than director gives. Done right, without apologies or compromises, this is the best kind of erotic film. Now & Later is by no means perfect, but director Philippe Diaz gets much of it right. He cuts to the chase and shows that intimate sex and serious dialog go a long way toward a satisfying picture.
Bill (James Wortham) is a fugitive from justice who is set to leave the country. Angela (Shari Solanis) can help facilitate his emigration, but it'll be a few days before his transport to Nicaragua will be ready. In the meantime, Angela schools Bill on the realities of his country that he's been blind to all these years and opens his mind to a world of sexuality he that he never dreamed possible.
In 1935, philosopher and pornographer George Bataille published a novella that nobody reads anymore, called Blue of Noon. In it, a young libertine must choose between three women, and his decision comes down to the outcome of the growing fascist rumblings in the streets below his disgusting apartment. I love this book, but there are only two things going on in it: graphic sex and graphic politics, perfectly balanced in a hundred pages of prose. It isn't often that a film takes this tact, eschewing nearly all dramatic cues and focusing on the sheer power of flesh and conversation. Now & Later gets this concept and delivers exactly what it promises: ninety minutes of philosophy and sex, and not a thing more.
What little plot that is present comes right at the start, and there's no doubt that it's painful. The worse-than-porno acting makes it feel like the start of an extremely bumpy ride, but once it becomes clear that this opening is strictly to build a theoretically plausible scenario, the film smoothes out considerably. As soon as Angela and Bill enter her apartment, they basically stay there the rest of the film. The acting doesn't improve, but realistic dialog simply becomes irrelevant to the rest of the film. Bill and Angela are living embodiments of the stances they take; they're little more than political and ethical symbols. No doubt that this turns them into caricatures, but they are types in service of the film.
Bill, as a investment banker who made his living speculating on the bankruptcies of nations, goes on the run after a government indictment. This ignorant, ugly American stereotype is welcomed by Angela, an illegal immigrant who is caring and works hard, but whose parents were killed in Nicaragua by an American-sponsored coup, the exact kind of imperialism and profiteering of Bill's profession. These facts anger Angela, but instead of hating or judging Bill, her instinct is to educate Bill in the ways of history, politics, and living in the now.
This idea is the origin of the film's title. Angela's notions of free love, charity, and the disdain of possessions causes Bill, cutely, to refer to her as "Professor Now," while Bill's focus on investments and repressed denial of pleasure has Angela counter by calling him "Mr. Later." Using these names is a fun little game, but more than that, the names further disassociate us from them as real people. In between Angela's lessons about politics, religion, and philosophy, she gives Bill her lessons of the flesh. The graphic sexuality serves a more important purpose than just titillation (though it has that in spades); Angela is preaching to us as much as to Bill, so it wouldn't be terribly consistent if Diaz demurred in erotic content. Instead, he pulls no punches, showing us the acts in their full, unadulterated form, putting into practice the statement made into the film. For its formal faults, Now & Later knows what it wants to be and doesn't try for more. Your tolerance may vary for such antics, but just like in the Bataille works that I love so much, I don't need more than this.
Cinema Libre's DVD for Now & Later is fine, with nothing that stands out, but without much to complain about, either. The anamorphic image is standard for a film with such a low budget, fairly clear with good color and no transfer issues to speak of. The stereo sound mix is a little soft, though, but not too bad. The balance is right, so there's no problem in having to turn up the sound a little. For extras, we have a deleted scene, specifically called a deleted sex scene, in case there wasn't quite enough for you in the feature. It's more of the same, but totally inessential. Additionally, we have a short making-of featurette and two trailers, one censored and the other not. Overall, an average DVD package.
Now & Later delivers on its meager promise of sex and dialog, a decent example of a century old tradition of story-free philosophical erotica. If you need more than this to enjoy a film, then look elsewhere. There are certainly issues with the acting and there's not much style in the film making, but I can appreciate this kind of concise and frank indulgence of mind and flesh.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Cinema Libre
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 99 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Deleted Scene