Before I begin my review of Anahi Berneri's Un Ano Sin Amor a.k.a A Year Without Love (2005) I must admit that my knowledge of gay-S/M culture is very limited. Yet, this rather recent Argentinean film had me pondering the stigma our society has imposed on it for quite awhile. Needless to say I find it fascinating that so much of it is being shrouded in mystery which at the end of the day is as translucent as just about everything else we shy away from. This being said, for those who already have formed a discriminating opinion in their heads about the people who share the afore-mentioned culture I suppose Un Ano Sin Amor will be a difficult film to swallow.
A dying of AIDS Argentinean writer (Pablo Perez) keeps coming back to what makes him feel alive: erotic pleasure. As the disease slowly chips away from the young man's remaining time he embarks on a questionable journey amidst the gay-S/M underground clubs of Buenos Aires.
There each night Pablo forgets about AIDS and its destructive power-he dreams of being loved, he wants to be needed by another human being. Under the pumping beats of trendy electronica however the young writer will uncover that true love is most likely a myth.
Un Ano Sin Amor is an honest film about human suffering. It is a graphic one as well. With its often rough scenes of men exploring their bodies there is plenty here that mainstream cinema typically avoids. Recreating the emotional and physical downfall of a man who has come to terms with the fact that death is just around the corner isn't an easy subject to approach, especially when the main protagonist becomes involved in a sexually discriminating relationship with another man.
The greatest strength of Un Ano Sin Amor is its ability to recreate a realistic picture of what it truly means to suffer under the heavy weight of a sickness for which there is no cure. The film also seems to be reaching out in a direction which may not bode well with those who view AIDS in a more discriminating manner. Frankly, I found it enormously painful to watch how Pablo was struggling to remain normal when everyone else around him was acting rather strange.
Un Ano Sin Amor also attempts to show its viewers how in the face of adversity some people can be easily manipulated. Through sex Pablo attempts to find what in "normal" life people take for granted. As his illness progresses however he takes some unusual risks that eventually will hurt him even more.
Creating an enormous impact on those who attended last year's Berlin International Film Festival Un Ano Sin Amor deservedly won the Teddy Award for Best Feature Film. At home in the US the film also won the Best Foreign Language Award at the New York Lesbian and Gay Film Festival (2005).
How Does The DVD Look?
I am faced with a difficult decision here as I honestly do not know how to evaluate this film. What I was given was a "screener" which is not a DVD-R copy of the film yet everything here is of DVD-R-esque quality. If the film does appear under a different form at mainstream retailers throughout the country then I have been given something that we typically reject. What we always review at DVDTALK is finished, market-product and I am going to assume that this is what I was given.
This being said Un Ano Sin Amor is presented in a horrendous package: the film is nowhere near its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. What I have in my hands is closer to 1.66:1, non-anamorphic, and clearly sourced from an analog master DVD. The film comes with an enormous amount of dirt, terrible contrast, and very shaky color scheme. To be honest this "digital presentation" is on par with the average VHS-screeners I used to get from the majors.
I truly hope that I was just sent a film-screener as opposed to a DVD-screener!
How Does the DVD Sound?
Another punch under the belt: an average at best 2.0 Spanish track and burnt-in English subtitles for the main feature. The audio is mostly manageable but believe me this is not how this film should sound.
You will find a very small gallery of "deleted scenes" that strangely enough appear with yellow English subs while the main feature has white subs. Next, there is a small "Making Of" documentary which follows the filming crew and cast-mostly generic footage. Last but not least there are two international trailers for the film as well as a gallery of trailers for other Strand pictures.
A highly-provocative (and perhaps for many probably impossible to endure) film Un Ano Sin Amor certainly deserves to be seen. Unfortunately Strand Releasing have given the film a questionable treatment which rivals some of the worst DVDs I have seen this year. I truly hope that this was simply a film-"screener" that I was given since my DVD came without disc-work, cover, etc. If not, it is a shame that the company continues to deliver ground-breaking and controversial films that are immediately marred by such lackluster presentation(s). Regretfully: SKIP IT!