The Movie Waffler First Look Review - AMOR BANDIDO | The Movie Waffler

First Look Review - AMOR BANDIDO

Amor Bandido review
A teenage boy's affair with his teacher takes a violent turn.

Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: Daniel Werner

Starring: Romina Ricci, Renato Quattordio, Rafael Ferro

Amor Bandido poster

Amor Bandido, a curious erotic thriller debut from Argentinian Daniel Andres Werner (with script support from Diego Avalos), pointedly opens in flashforward of a young person fleeing from a dilapidated abode before desperately scrambling through grey twilighted woods from as yet unseen assailants. Deliberately exploiting genre familiarity, the scene proceeds to offer a crucial flourish: the young person is a boy, man. The slight wrinkle intrigues as convention has trained us to expect a girl/young woman running scared in such scenarios, and via its twisty, sexy plot Amor Bandido goes on to build upon this prearranged juxtaposition, negotiating our expectations of gender dynamics in a film that if not wholly successful is nonetheless exhilaratingly transgressive and morally challenging.

Amor Bandido review

The boy in question is Joan (Renato Quattordio), a 16-year-old who goes to an exclusive school for posh nobs. Joan's overbearing dad is something to do with something important while his sot mum, as genre tradition dictates, is unhappy in the relationship and spends the days bitterly sloshing martini about the palatial abode. No wonder, then, that Joan is on the lookout for escapism, and, as he is a heterosexual teen boy hopelessly at the mercy of hormones which at that age can only be described as "raging," no wonder he becomes infatuated with his art teacher Luciana (Romina Ricci), whose pulchritudinous image is in the Mediterranean mould of Carla Gugino and God Penelope Cruz. Joan's juvenility is demonstrated chiefly by the diorama of Poseidon he is making (A+ for effort, maybe a B- for realisation) but also his desperate, unanswered texts to "Lu": "When can I see you again?", "Are you there?", "I MISS YOU!" *clenched teeth emoji*. A few scenes later we meet Luciana, who Werner playfully films in slo-motion, platforming her hotness with bouncing hair and swinging shoulders (haha, watching the scene again I just noticed a background kid licking his lips as she passes!). It can't be the same Lu, can it?!

Before you can say Rod "should probably be locked up" Liddle it turns out that it IS the same Lu. Initially (and, in a larger sense, throughout) Werner keeps the exact nature of LuJoan mysterious: Lu has handed in her notice that day, coats down Joan in class, but then meets the boy, via a classic trope of schoolboy fantasy, in a storeroom for a tentative snog. Who's zooming who, we wonder, as  Joan professes his adoration for her, and Luciana accordingly manipulates him into meeting her after school at a hastily scribbled address. They duly abscond to the isolated shack in the woods which we saw Joan escape in terror from in the opening...

Amor Bandido review

My notes from the start of the film approve of what I assumed was a subversion of the male gaze: we gratuitously see Joan in the shower, his body displayed in the same objective manner of a thousand female horror victims, and despite Luciana's hegemonic attractiveness, she is filmed covered up in a black-widow cool pine trouser suit. Take that, Laura Mulvey. However, when they reach the cabin this paradigm changes immediately, along with the temperature of the movie: we're talking hot hot hot! In Amor Bandido's second act we see JoanLu's relationship consummated over and over in extended sequences which operate within explicit Erotic Thriller parameters, bathing Quattordio's impressive morphology in becoming light (the pivotal difference between representations of sex in pornography and the erotic thriller: porn sex is positioned desire wherein the audience is functionally invited to imagine themselves within the narrative, whereas the erotic thriller contrives an aspirational remove; you dream that you could have sex this candle lit and satin sheeted, this dangerously abandoned). Which, let's face it, is a bit of a problem when you consider that Joan is 16, and the age of consent in Argentina is a prohibitive eighteen. I'm not sure what the law is regarding duty of care in the country but I can tell you that if Lu were a teacher in the UK (even though the age of consent is 16) then she'd be right in the shit.

Within the context of this particular film, a grey area is cast which is compounded by the considered construction of Joan as an innocent. On the way, Lu buys him a single can of beer which he sips from like a kid as she dances in the car headlights (a clear nod to Van Sant's To Die For), and his desperate romanticism is framed as post-pubescent idiocy (it helps that he looks like a mini George Osborne). However, the sex is depicted as cool and, well, sexy, with sensuous shadows and whispered intimacy. Yes, we can make jokes about how greedily burying his face between the legs of this objectively beautiful woman must have been torture for Joan, etc, but he demonstrably does not have the maturity or emotional experience to steer the lopsided dynamic. The film teases this dichotomy, at once establishing Joan as a young 16 alongside offering the visual pleasure of a stylised sex spectacle akin to that of The Postman Always Rings Twice (1981). What is further discomfiting is that an extra layer of manipulation is present, because due to the strange people she knows who drop by, her sporadic disappearing acts and the present reminder of the horror trope opening, Luciana's motives are under suspicion. The chicanery imbues the sex with further connotations of exploitation.

Amor Bandido review

About that first scene... Applying its conscious gender reversals to the film at large, would the paragraph above read the same if Joan (pronounced Jo-hann) had been a Joan (pronounced Joan), i.e., a girl? It's a question which Amor Bandido clumsily posits in its second half, as things go to pot and propose a more realistic reason as to why Luciana and her cohorts are interested in this little nerd with his obscenely rich paterfamilias... We are given a bitter palette cleanser to all the prior sexy sex with a rape scene presented in unflinching, limited shots that contrast the sybarism of earlier, along with some middle-aged incest to boot. Honestly, it's all a bit much, and the exploitation bingo card fills up too rapidly, overriding the film's credibility (SPOILER: hang on, so Luciana, an educated professional employed by an exclusive academy, is in a sexual relationship with her maybe brother and is willing to risk everything for extortion? Alright). Still, within the liminality of Amor Bandido's genre hybridity (it's almost an anthology of modes: noir, sex thriller, hicksploitation) too much is always preferable to too little. And however far an intriguing by-product of the film's horny rush they may be, the queasy implications of the central relationship are intriguing and uncomfortably linger beyond Amor Bandido's bildungsroman conclusions.

Amor Bandido is on US VOD/DVD now. A UK/ROI release has yet to be announced.

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