Director Julián Hernández throws out the narrative rule book with his dreamy romantic drama "I Am Happiness on Earth." By turns sexy and exasperating, hypnotic and confusing, this Mexican import is an art film for the patient, adventurous and, let's be honest, forgiving.
Although it often feels like an excuse for a bunch of hot young men to strip and roll around together, Hernández clearly has something deeper in mind. The director, who co-wrote the elliptical script with Ulises Pérez Mancilla, attempts to create a kind of movie within a movie as a brooding filmmaker named Emiliano (Hugo Catalán) imagines the world as he would like it to be. Unfortunately, the results prove a pretentious and convoluted conceit.
Not to be a killjoy, but had Hernández simply made a more straightforward, conventional movie about the life and loves of a rising gay Mexican film director, he might have had something ("Nine" without the score?). As it stands, however, with its many long, wordless stretches, deliberate pace and head-scratching structure, many may find "Happiness" a film to endure rather than enjoy.
Sure, one can admire the picture's smooth visuals and bold approach to sex and sexuality. (It has plenty of male nudity and a few fairly explicit erotic scenes — even ones including women.) And Catalán, Alan Ramírez (who plays a dancer enamored with Emiliano) and Emilio von Sternenfels (as a rent boy who takes up with the director) are easy on the eyes.
But we learn so little of consequence about Emiliano, not to mention the revolving door of ab-tastic guys who float in and out of his world, there's not much to invest in emotionally. After a while, it's easier to feel more like a voyeur than a legitimate viewer.
"I Am Happiness on Earth."
MPAA rating: None.
Running time: 2 hours, 2 minutes.
Playing: In Spanish with English subtitles. At Laemmle's Playhouse 7, Pasadena.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times