“Máncora” premiere at Sundance

For months, bloggers have been building expectations for tonight’s world premiere of Ricardo de Montreuil’s new feature film Máncora at the Sundance Film Festival. The film depicts the tribulations of a set of gorgeous young actors involved in a variety of parties and sexual combinations. While this did appear to draw some sympathetic excitement out of young partiers in the audience, it left those looking for any literary or artistic merit rather unimpressed.

The film opens with Santiago, an extremely good-looking and unaccomplished 21-year old who is too busy partying and having bathroom-stall sex to answer the phone when his father calls to let him know he is about to commit suicide. The father leaves a message — and jumps off a bridge.

Santiago finally gets the news and is very distraught. He mopes around his apartment half-clothed and refuses to answer the phone until his “sister,” Ximena, calls from New York. In a particularly clumsy bit of exposition she drones into the answering machine: “I know that I am your sister by the marriage of our parents only, and we have not seen each other for six years, but I want to see you. I am married now, and I am coming to Lima on Thursday with my husband …”

Mercifully, Santiago is moved to pick up the phone at this point, and before you know it the gorgeous by-law-only sister, Ximena, and her extremely sexy husband, Iñigo, are in the apartment all talking about who will sleep where.

The three agree to go on a road trip Santiago has planned to Máncora, a surfing town in the warm north of Peru. What follows is a litany of parties and increasing alcohol and drug use that facilitates a series of events that seems designed to substitute blood and sex for plot and substance.

At the first all-nighter, Santiago gets in a party-stopping fight then has sex with his “sister,”
Ximena. The next day, Ximena’s sexy husband, Iñigo, comes back full of accusatory innuendo (Iñigo inexplicably ran off in the middle of the road trip, of course leaving the other two alone to have sex). Santiago is then drawn into harder drugs and kinkier sex with two hot blond debutantes. The party+sex scenes get extremely long and seem to be a collection of loud music videos that are separate from the almost-nonexistent movie. Oh, and we also get to see sexy-husband Iñigo have sex with a Mexican hottie.

Yes, Ximena pouts, and Santiago mopes, and Iñigo acts crazy — but the characters are rolling-paper thin and we don’t care about them.

An hour into the movie, most of the audience is shuffling and giving rolling-eye looks to their confidants. Some of the major-newspaper film critics (we won’t name names here) have actually walked out.

It is possible there are goals of the film that are lost on a non-Peruvians. After decades of totalitarian repression, the freedom of the film’s characters to lead dissolute lives in a post-Fujimori era might paint a more compelling tableau to audiences there. But here in Park City, Utah, there is no escaping the director’s self-indulgence, which rivals that of his characters.

At the end of the showing, there was enthusiastic applause from small groups of the audience who look a lot like the characters in the movie: young well-off party kids. Most of the rest of the audience makes a B-line for the exit.