"Outside, it's like they've opened the gates of Hell."—Gerardo (George Corraface)
Sometimes, a single director can dominate the cinema of an entire country. Sweden has film directors besides Ingmar Bergman, but any film coming out of that country is going to be compared to his work. Poland has Kieslowski; Denmark, Lars von Trier. And Spain has Pedro Almodóvar.
Is it a romantic comedy? A romantic drama? A movie where the topic of sex pops up even for a moment? Then somebody is going to compare the film to Almodóvar, sometimes unfairly. Imagine the burden for a director as well: can you set your film apart from the work of an internationally renowned artist, or should you just follow his lead?
Not that any of this really has much to do with Km. 0. I am just looking for a way to make small talk. Well, that and some clueless person is likely to assume that every film about love and sex to come out of Spain must be heir-apparent to Almodóvar's throne. Km. 0 is set in Madrid, at the dead center of town. Hence the name: the "Kilometer Zero" to which all roads converge. On the hottest day of the year, a motley collection of loners looking for love connect and misconnect over 12 hours. A hooker (Elisa Matilla) arranges to meet a nervous john and ends up instead with a student (Carlos Fuentes) who fancies himself a film director. While he remakes her to look like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, his intended date, a temperamental actress (Mercè Pons) tries to get a temperamental producer (Georges Corraface) to give her an audition. In the same diner where this takes place, the diner's owner (Alberto San Juan) rebuffs the advances of his fiancée's underage sister, while said fiancée Amor (Silke Klein) goes shopping and gets repeatedly robbed.
Meanwhile—take a deep breath, because we are going in the deep end—a middle-aged woman (Concha Velasco) hires a stud (Jesús Cabrero), but after she sleeps with him, she mistakenly believes he is her long-lost son. Her real long-lost son Benjamin (Miquel García) has a gay romp with a dancer (Víctor Ullate Jr.), who really thought he was meeting a guy (Armando del Río) he regularly net-sexes in instant message. That guy, Maximo, spends the day jokingly trying to seduce the nervous john (Tristán Ulloa) that the hooker was supposed to meet up with in the first place. All this culminates—and you will thank me for showing you how awkward this whole business is—in the revelation that Maximo is a gay guardian angel sent to fix all these insipid couples up! At this point, I felt myself curling up into a ball, flecks of foam at the corners of my mouth.
Never sure whether it wants to be a soap opera or a parody of soap operas, Km. 0 blows nearly every attempt to turn either dramatic or comic. A dramatic scene will start (for instance, Benjamin trying to tell Bruno that he loves him)—and halfway through the scene, the film will cut away to something meant to be comic (Amor tries to report her constant travails to a nutty cop). Neither scene builds any momentum on its own. The picture instead tries to propel itself solely on its sexual frankness, like a pay-cable television series that uses dirty bits simply to look hip and edgy. Almodóvar films (at least the better ones) use sexual frankness to explore the politics of gender. Km. 0 is merely a disjointed series of booty calls.
Amateurish acting does not help either. Watch the scene (or better yet, run away in fear and just let me tell you about it) where young Pedro discovers that Tatiana is a prostitute, they argue, and she breaks down in tears. It feels like an acting workshop exercise, rather than real acting. Maybe all the performances are meant to be thin in the spirit of soap opera parody, but for a parody to work, it has to push over the original, not underplay it. Low-budget production values and stage-bound direction (by Juan Luis Iborra and Yolanda García Serrano) do not help either: the music in particular has a reedy feel, like the temp-track was left on the picture.
Km. 0 comes as a bare-bones release from TLA Releasing, as part of a series of "international film festival" pictures that apparently did not get picked up by Miramax or another larger distributor. It won a few audience awards at several gay and lesbian film festivals. I suppose the mere fact that the film treats its couples—straight and gay, young and old, idiotic and more idiotic—with the same unamusing sexual innuendo and poor character development, should be commended. Everybody in Km. 0 gets reamed in the same way, with no prejudices. Only the audience gets reamed worse.
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