Fantastic Fest: WE ARE THE FLESH Wants Very Badly To Scandalize You (And It Just Might)

Director Emiliano Rocha Minter is a goddamn madman.

I'm honestly not even sure how I feel about Emiliano Rocha Minter's We Are The Flesh. 

On the one hand, it's a willfully transgressive, hallucinatory, wildly-explicit fever dream of a movie, and one I feel very grateful to have experienced with a Fantastic Fest crowd. On the other hand, I'm not convinced We Are The Flesh has a lot going on under its hood.

For all its legitimately memorable imagery - a lengthy, unbroken closeup of a vagina; a graphic (and, it's worth noting, incestual) onscreen blowjob; the terrifying smile plastered across the face of star Noe Hernandez - there's very little to hold onto, plot-wise, and that has the ultimate effect of making We Are The Flesh feel mostly like an "endurance test movie". It's been a while since one of those came along, so I guess that's not the worst thing in the world. I just wish this one were better.

Here is the plot: we meet a weird little man (Hernandez) living in what appears to be a decommissioned warehouse. From what I could gather, the strange little man spends his time pulping bodies, smashing whatever's on hand, and yelling unintelligibly. Shortly thereafter, a brother and sister (Diego Gamaliel and María Cid, respectively) stumble upon the man, and shortly after that they are both completely under his spell. The man encourages the siblings to do a tremendous amount of boning and murder - all of which we are treated to at length, and in graphic detail - and then a bunch of people die and the movie ends.

A few months back, our own Andrew Todd saw Minter's film at the Fantastia Film Festival, and in his review he said something that I'm going to agree with: I'm fairly certain that We Are The Flesh is saying something about life in modern day Mexico (where the film was made), but I'm not familiar enough with that country's goings-on to decode whatever it might be saying. Something about the corruption of youth? Class warfare? National pride? In this way and others, I responded to We Are The Flesh much in the same way I responded to A Serbian Film: I was impacted by the imagery but was otherwise left shrugging. 

Now, there's certainly something to be said for potent and transgressive imagery. I like it when a film acts as a kind of dare, poking at an audience's sense of right and wrong and testing its boundaries. But is that enough of a reason to recommend Minter's film? I'm not so sure. I was often impressed and a little disturbed while watching it, and I admire the hell out of its willingness to go so dark, but I can't honestly say I loved it. Furthermore, I wonder if the film would have any impact whatsoever were it to be watched, say, at home on the couch, in the privacy of one's own home, versus with a sold-out audience of strangers at the Drafthouse (rando lady on my right was was definitely feeling We Are The Flesh's brand of shenanigans; the rando dude on my left kept squirming around and covering his eyes; I drank several beers and offered the occasional respectful nod). 

I suppose my final verdict is as follows: We Are The Flesh is an aggressively weird and impressively graphic endurance test movie. I enjoyed it, as much as one can enjoy a thing like this, but I wish I had more reasons to recommend Minter's film beyond the spectacle of it. Those interested in experiencing We Are The Flesh for themselves should view it on the biggest screen possible, with the most diverse crowd possible, and with maybe one or two substances floating around in their bloodstream. 

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