Part social commentary and part romantic comedy, Bulgarian Lovers suffers from unnecessarily complicated plot turns and too much lingering over obvious points. Its theme is mutual exploitation, specifically the arrangements worked out at the nexus of class, sex and age differences. Set in a gay milieu in contemporary Spain, it occasionally attains its aim of being wryly comic but more often is just dryly meandering.
The trade-offs take place between middle-aged Daniel (Fernando Guillen Cuervo) and his rich Spanish friends, and young Bulgarian stud muffins looking for easy money. Daniel’s circle is so appallingly shallow that no tears are shed by the audience at the prospect of one of them getting not only screwed but screwed over, but Daniel himself is more sensitive, or perhaps “needy” would be the word. So it’s no surprise that he takes the attentions of Kyril, a young hustler with an engaging personality, as a sign of something deeper than just the usual hustle.
Daniel is so smitten, in fact, that he takes the news of Kyril’s engagement to Kalina as a minor distraction. He also allows himself to be drawn into some very shady activity, like storing a mysterious black bag for his lover; a bag that may contain either smuggled cocaine or illicit explosives. He is, in fact, so determined not to allow anything to come between himself and Kyril that his character has perhaps an unintended arc; Daniel seems at first a silly man, then much more sympathetic and finally silly again.
This is the first feature in 15 years from veteran director Eloy de la Iglesia, best known in the West for his cult horror film Cannibal Man (‘71), and he directs with the kind of brio his reputation would suggest. If you’re not responsive to the energetic soft-core gay sex scenes here, there’s not a lot left to engage your attention, apart from Cuervo’s amusing performance as the dewy-eyed fool in love. The rest is kind of flaccid.
In Spanish and Bulgarian with English subtitles. Opens June 25 at the Main Art Theatre (118 N. Main, Royal Oak). Call 248-263-2111.
Richard C. Walls writes about film for Metro Times. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.