Fuego ★★½

1st Armando Bó

A big thank you to Lou, who very kindly sent me a copy of this through Discord. I've been fascinated with this film ever since it appeared at a Barbican film series about kitsch something close to 6 years ago, but finding a decent copy has been a chore. Having now seen it, I must report that ultimately, it's a bit rubbish. The dub I saw gave Sarli's performance no favours, reducing her abilities to little more than pouting and rubbing herself sensually on whatever surface she can find. Clearly shot on 16mm film, the whole production has a cheap feeling, filled with awkward cuts and pans trying to maximise the limited resources that Bó had at his disposal. It's also unbelievably homophobic, clearly defining lesbianism as an unnatural attraction that should be expelled as forcefully as possible.

On the other hand, you can't help but feel sorry for Sarli's Laura. Clearly tormented by her hyper-sexuality, she seems to find no joy in sexual release, only a deeply rooted sense of shame. How much of that shame comes from a societal expectation of her femininity as chaste and how much is her own mental state is unclear, but what is evident is how deeply unhappy she is with herself, to the point of being suicidal. Not even her love for her husband can erase the sense of self-hatred that she feels to her core. Trapped in the world of 60s Argentina with rudimentary medical treatment, Laura's fate is pre-ordained in a depressingly obvious manner, giving the film an unusually sombre and poignant kick to something quite blatantly trashy. Also, Sarli was 39 when she and Bó made this, far older than we would consider a regular sex symbol, but there's something very pleasant about an older actress getting to be desirable and so openly naked all the time. And with a body like hers, I don't blame her.

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