A picture with a title this pretentious–it’s shortened here to “A Thousand Clouds of Peace,” though the continuation is “Fence the Sky, Love; Your Being Love Will Never End,” and is reportedly a line from a poem by Italian director Pier Paolo Pasolini, who was killed by a drifter whom he’d picked up–had better make up for it somehow. (It also owes apologies to the hapless theatre employees who have to put titles up on marquees.) This one doesn’t. More mood piece than narrative, it’s a portrayal of the alienation and angst suffered by a Mexican teenager named Gerardo (Juan Carlos Ortuno) who’s just been dumped by his boyfriend Bruno (Juan Carlos Torres). Gerardo wanders about the streets of Mexico City searching for human connection, linking up with some random sexual partners and talking things over inconclusively with a friend, a kindly waitress, and his estranged mother. Nothing helps, however, and each incident seems only to increase his moroseness and pain. In the end, if the soundtrack is to be taken literally, he dies of a broken heart. Of course, his collapse is perhaps intended to be taken as metaphor.
In any event, the only thing that stands out in Julian Hernandez’s languid, lugubrious picture is the radiant black-and-white cinematography by Daniel Arizmendi, which gives the compositions a glistening, sculptured quality, particularly in the many scenes in which Ortuno is posed, like an artist’s model, in some static position, staring off like a disconsolate angel into space. But even though “A Thousand Clouds of Peace” lasts only eighty minutes, even from the visual standpoint it’s drearily repetitive and tedious, a self-consciously arty piece that may be psychologically useful to its writer-director but is torture for its audience. And the aural complement to the affected images make things worse. The repeated recourse to Spanish-language love songs on the soundtrack is annoying enough, but when the final chorus from Bach’s “St. Matthew Passion” shows up at the end, presumably to compare Gerardo’s suffering to that of Christ, it borders on the obscene. This film may have a place in specialized festivals, but most audiences will be baffled and repelled by it.
That kindly waitress, however, gives Gerardo some sage advice. “One day you’ll wake up and you won’t remember him,” she says. “This won’t last.” It’s a message of relief that, with the change of a single pronoun, viewers should keep in mind while they’re enduring “A Thousand Clouds.”