Documentaries featuring real people gabbing about themselves with little or no direction, is nothing new. Errol Morris stirred controversy in 2010 with Tabloid, his rather exploitative ranting self-portrait so to speak, of somewhat unhinged Joyce McKinney, a former Miss Wyoming who in 1977 was charged in the UK with the infamous ‘Manacled Mormon’ case. In which she abducted and imprisoned the object of her pathological obsession, a young Mormon ex-lover.
Very likely a big screen offshoot of those popular reality television shows, this so-called dubious docu-fiction genre has given rise to what might be termed self-exploitation of vulnerable human beings without a clue in many cases, that what makes perfect sense to them about their lives, may be setting themselves up for the butt of public shame and ridicule. Which pertaining to Brazilian director Alejandro Landes’ Porfirio, may be true as well, but likewise harboring something more sinister and self-serving.
So is this a case of Porfirio Ramirez Aldana making a pact with the devil behind the camera, or the other way around. Possibly a little of both, as the subject of Landes’ biopic may have been shrewd enough to pull off a take charge feat of his own here.
A prosperous Colombian rancher now paralyzed from the waist down as a result of a stray police bullet, Porfirio, appearing as himself in the film, was overcome with immense frustration when the government stalled on paying him compensation stemming from the ensuing lawsuit. Confined permanently to a wheelchair and without the use of his atrophied legs, the avenging Porfirio nevertheless mounted an unsuccessful plane hijacking packing grenades in his diaper, to force the government to pay him that overdue settlement.
What followed was the house arrest detention of the severely disabled man for years, likely because the authorities preferred not to have to deal with the extensive and unpleasant care that placing him in a prison would entail. Though neither the director nor Porfirio have bothered to spare viewers these too much information, the pleasure is all his details, so to speak. Raising suspicions that the duo share a rather unnatural symbiotic pleasure combining Porfirio’s extreme exhibitionism with that not uncommon voyeuristic tendency among filmmakers. And what about the reaction of the Colombian authorities to this get-even screen reenactment mocking them – a far more interesting subject Landes decided to bypass.
As a result, you will be treated to enduring Porfirio’s graphic episodes of defecation and masturbation. In addition to closeup, pretty much in your face unsimulated copulation and oral sex with an apparently willing female neighbor. Did I mention all of this playing out in prolonged real time?
And while the lives of unusual human beings are potentially intriguing subjects for movies, let’s get one thing clear. Filmmaking is not and should never be, a form of personal psychotherapy on camera. Along with sleazy stuff that in the real world off-screen, would land you in handcuffs.
Which in the case of Porfirio, appears to be his own perverse bid via an eagerly willing filmmaker. In other words, that he may be disabled and feeling a little on the emasculated side, but the sexually feisty gent can still show the world what a macho seductive stud in bed he can be. Spare me.