- New Maricón Cinema: Outing Latin American Film by Vinodh Venkatesh
queer latin american film, homosexuality in motion pictures, latin american film, depictions of sexual difference in latin america, latin american visual culture, film criticism, gay men in film, affect theory, queer theory, Vinodh Venkatesh, David Tenorio
New Maricón Cinema traces a genealogy of queer Latin American film while providing a robust theorization of themes, techniques, and aesthetics of this genre. Divided into three main parts (Maricón, New Maricón, and Rematerializing Bodies and the Urban Space.), the book’s ten chapters and introduction provide a panoramic and yet rigorous analysis of those emblematic pieces of cinematography that have shaped the representation of gender difference in Latin America. Each of the three parts opens with a brief note that allows the author to contextualize the analysis of the films treated in the corresponding chapter. Incorporating a wide array of films that range from 1978 to 2014, Venkatesh thus embarks on a detailed, if at times too exhaustive, reading of the films that have given shape to a homoerotic Latin American cinema. This book seeks to both chart a genealogy of the politics of representation and present a theoretical corpus from which to approach a carnal and sensorial aesthetics of a particular strand of Latin American film.
The introduction opens with an analysis of Qué pena tu vida (2010) as a Chilean film that represents what the author refers to as a turn in the cinematic representation of homosexuality. Venkatesh theorizes the concepts of Maricón (scopic) and New Maricón (haptic) cinemas as categories that help to contextualize and conceptualize an epistemological, ethical, and aesthetic shift within a Latin American boom of sexuality in film. If Maricón aesthetics, themes, and styles focus on the disengaged and distanced view of sexual difference, or as the author refers to them, as “an emphasis on visuality or seeing, where the image and apparatus create specific lines of sight that guide how we look at the moving image” (6), then New Maricón cinema marks a stark fracture from this aesthetic in that it offers alternative modalities of representation intertwining affectivity, audio-tactility, and hybridity. Moreover, the author argues that this affective turn in gay cinema also serves to foster a phenomenological approach that debunks traditional renditions of desire, sexual difference, and queer belonging. New Maricón films decenter and [End Page 498] resignify the spatial configurations of the urban, resorting to a deployment of natural spaces that also serve as metaphors for and images of the aqueous and polymorphous textures of sexuality. The author’s investment in affect theory, particularly infused with the scholarship of Sara Ahmed, is carefully woven into his phenomenological tools, such that, through a haptic perspective, a sense of empathy is stimulated in the audience. This identification and recognition of sexual difference in the New Maricón genre appeals to an ethical commitment juxtaposed with the contradictions of sexual diversity rights, access to citizenship, cultural politics, and the normative logics of the neoliberal state in Latin America.
With respect to the use of theory, New Maricón Cinema is an ambitious, multifaceted, and complexly articulated compendium that seeks to localize affect theory, queer theory, and cinematics within Latin America’s visual cultures. However, the reading of this book is heavily mediated by an excessive use of technical and theoretical jargon that seeks to shed new light on the analysis of these films, leaving nonspecialized readers out of the loop on the current debates in Latin American film studies. To this end, since the book engages with the cinematic shift toward a more ethical and empathetic rendition of sexual otherness in queer films, it is only fair to question the author’s own positionality and ethical considerations in producing a scholarly work that is intelligible to only one particular readership. By the same token, the methodological approach turns, at times, to the same narratological and visual techniques that the book renders inefficient in the depiction of homoerotic desire within Latin American film...