Reviewed by Glenn Erickson
There's no editor listed on Tarea; the whole movie has fewer cuts than Alfred Hitchcock's
Rope. Of course, it's a lot easier making
a movie with so few cuts when 98% of the picture has one camera angle. Just
one. Tarea is a stunt film with some claim to relevance, but not a lot. Made immediately after Steven
Soderberg's Sex Lies and Videotape, it seeks to relate sex and video directly to the voyeuristic
experience. What starts as perhaps a new take on sexual politics, a la WR: Mysteries of the Organism,
instead devolves into a strict exercise in Peeping Tommery, al estilo Mexicano.
Adult film student Virginia (Maria Rojo) hides a professional video camera in the
corner of her studio, for the purpose of secretly recording the entire visit of Marcelo (José Alonso), a man she had
a brief affair with four years before. She maneuvers him into the right place and eventually confesses that she
invited him for sex; he thinks that's a great idea but neither of them have a condom. Much discussion of sexual
anxiety follows, and it looks like the deed is about to be recorded on tape, when Marcelo suddenly realizes that
that camera in the corner is activated and rolling tape ...
Tarea is the kind of film that works as an idea, but can't help being exactly the thing it wants to make an
enlightened statement about, pornography lite. At first, Virginia's strange 'homework' assignment appears to be a
daring cinematic statement that will surely shock her classmates and cause no end of controversy. Her instructions
are to record something without cuts, and her plan is to break about 5 taboos at once while simultaneously
liberating herself from all sexual inhibitions. The seduction is planned for the floor right in front of the
camera; she 'directs' the film by getting Marcelo to talk about condoms and his ideas on sex.
Except for a couple of brief shots of Virginia making preparations, the whole show is seen from the one floor angle,
and with that limitation we should be impressed at the staging that keeps things interesting - if the 'hook'
weren't an obvious salacious wait for things to get steamy. Maria does strip a couple of times from her 'red
alligator dress'; and there's eventually full frontal nudity on both of their parts, and some (possibly) real sex in a
hammock. Naturally, we're all interested in exactly what sense Virginia's documentary can posssibly make, when she
claims to be so inhibited and shy - who's she going to show this thing to?
There's a twist ending that's fairly easy to see coming, if one knows the full title of the film. It comes as a
disappointment to find out that (spoiler) Virginia and Marcelo (spoiler, really, now) are actually
man and wife, and that the whole 'homework' business is just an intimate marital game. The inference is
that a healthy sex life in a happy marriage needs something spicy to make it work, and this couple has found their
It's a trite windup for what we hoped would be profound, and the rather classy, well acted and
smartly designed film seems especially trashy afterwards. Are the filmmakers condoning this behavior - couples
trying to jazz up their love lives with homemade pornography? That's not very encouraging. The couple jokes at
the end about selling the tapes they make as. They're apparently just reveling in a fantasy of becoming
big-time sex stars, but commercial pornography is the next logical step. My mailbox often gets unsolicited Emails
from supposed couples offering to show pictures of themselves making love, and I don't see anything liberating or healthy
Obviously, whatever works in a relationship, works, but Tarea is a stunt with a surprise ending
that seems even more exploitative than a straight sex film. The obvious reason it was produced was its unusually low
requirement for production resources: one set, one camera setup, no editor needed. Just an unusually committed pair
of actors. The film won a special mention at the Moscow Film Festival in 1991.
Vanguard's DVD of Tarea is a handsome-looking transfer of this one-angle movie. It's flat; the color is good
with only a bit of watermarking from the developer about 4/5ths of the way through. The subtitles cannot be removed,
which is something of a bummer. The movie is shot on film even though the stationary camera on the floor is a
video machine. In maybe 5 places, there are jumpcuts when people exit the frame or go into other rooms; because
of the locked-off angle, these are more distracting than the elaborate devices to mask the cuts in Rope.
The cover art is reasonably erotic, with a synopsis in English and Spanish on the back. The English translation of the full
title is muffed on the jacket back: 'How Pornography Saved the Split Family from Boredom and Improved their
On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor,
Video: Very Good
Packaging: Keep Case
Reviewed: November 5, 2002
DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2002 Glenn Erickson
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