314 Great Directors: Julian Hernandez

“At the end of the 1950s and 60s Antonioni made his trilogy about solitude and incommunication in which there was always the erotic feeling and implicit manifestation of his character’s pains. I think there has been a long period in history where humans haven’t found an output to their problems other than expressing them by means of erotic feelings. So, to use it to say certain things, to allow the characters to express themselves and show their anguish towards life, could seem provoking for some viewers. Sometimes they feel threatened by the eroticism in my films, with a single look or with the depiction of the human body. When the viewer allows himself the possibility to be disturbed by the explicit eroticism shown on screen, then the purpose of the film-maker has been accomplished.”

Why This Director?
: Lucrecia Martel was a fairly high priority for me in this, and I saw this director who I had very vaguely heard of mentioned in her TSPDT profile. Then I heard he was gay/queer as hell and was all in (I wanted diversity in the personal additions).

My Last Experience Was…: Nope.

What Did I Watch: Raging Sun Raging Sky, Broken Sky, Thousand Clouds of Peace.

Where Does He Fit: Raging Sun Raging Sky gives you one shot of full color, and it is the titular objects before we get a great dissolve that matches the walls that a woman is walking through perfectly, entering a black and white dream world where this one individual can listen in on the thoughts of people going on their business. This would be pretty banal if it wasn’t for how neatly everything is put together. The takes are long and clean, the compositions are pretty (love all the people getting rocked around in unison by the bus), the sound work is busy and just the right amount of overwhelming. We still have not seen a single character actually talk out loud by the time a man shows up while she’s having a mental breakdown of sorts, and then it begins to rain, leading to them having deeply unconvincing sex before a prophecy…well, it’s in voiceover, so who the hell knows who said it, but she evaporates anyway. We transfer things over to a men’s restroom in a cinema, where a whole lot of sexy time happens…anyway, the point I’m trying to make via this plot summary is, this is three hours of long, slow weirdness. Having just come off five and a half hours of Hiroshi Teshigahara, I’m really not inclined to have a problem with this, especially since the cuts and rhythms are so delirious and when some characters begin to actually talk in a way (a few minutes prior to hitting an hour, in a context you absolutely could not guess)…well, it hits you hard, somehow. Damned if I can pinpoint why, except I totally can: the surrealism combined with the astounding formal control is designed to hypnotize and provoke, anger and seduce, make you horny and turn you off as it explores Aztec mythology with all the skill of someone managing to crack open a fruit without making a mess. Apparently, this is the end of a trilogy of gay sex epics, with Thousand Clouds of Peace and Broken Sky being a real bitch to find. Props for capturing something about romance, though, even if it leaves itself wide open to charges of deep seated pretensions and a whole lot of ripping off from Antonioni in the emotional stasis, Ophuls in the tracking shots, and Genet’s entire aesthetic from his single masterpiece. But none of them vaulted between the real and the fake so quickly via the occasional jump cut.


Somehow, miraculously, I found copies of the other two after what felt like a very long search even if it was probably nothing compared to some of the other searches for obscurities in a filmography. So, when in doubt, watch something that may or may not be a trilogy in reverse order, and that is just what I did, moving on to Broken Sky, which immediately made me hope for something in the same vein as RSRS when it opened with a quote from Marguerite Duras, and mentioned it as being related to Hiroshima Mon Amour. But this turns out to be a trilogy that’s more than a little bit like Tsai Ming-liang’s films about gay cinephilia, even if the movie theater in the finale of our last Hernandez was barely relevant to the proceedings. This one just gets straight to the fucking with a weird sex scene that redefines the word “glossy” in how one barely touches his partner with his lips. The plot of this is much easier to parse than its later entry in the Sky series, to the point of comedy: two boys meet and fuck, they each meet another guy who they are into, the relationship becomes deeply strained, they eventually reconcile. That is it for 2 hours and 20 minutes, which sounds torturous and certainly could have used some of the black and white filter but yet again, he excavates mythology and sex in a way nobody else could do-a teacher basically gives a non-sung version of The Origin of Love from Hedwig and the Angry Inch, and the scenes evoke the sensation of physicality in a way you cannot do in the mainstream.

Broken Sky

A Thousand Clouds of Peace, thankfully, takes us back into the monochrome world, opening up with a blowjob in a car that does not look remotely enjoyable. (It also has a full title that is much more pretentious than that and which made it a real bitch to find.) Still, despite some spitting, the opening song is pretty joyous, and Hernandez’s films are all about love recovering despite grim circumstances, as opposed to the nihilism of an Antonioni. Unfortunately, this one has a lot more talking and acting, and the actors are way worse, actively trying to emote and failing as opposed to genuinely flat. This one actually made me kind of glad I watched the trilogy in reverse order, as the power of Raging Sun Raging Sky’s morph into colorful Aztec myth straddled between a real and dream world helped me appreciate the smaller powers of the first two, which would be good but uninteresting in their own right, especially since they cover such similar ground. Go extreme, Hernandez, we want no realism, we want long stretches of tedium that give way to whole new worlds.


Most Valuable Asset: Life can be pretty long sometimes, and so are the waits between sexual encounters. Props for getting it.
Most Excited For: I Am Happiness on Earth? I don’t know for sure there what with the reviews being pretty bad where they exist. Do they just not get his aesthetic or is it genuinely lacking?

Coming Up Next: Russia’s great newish director Andrey Zvyagintsev.


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