Review: Vento Seco (Dry Wind) – Iris Prize Film Festival ★★★★

Blending a magnificent visual style centred on queer aesthetics, with an investing study into same-sex desire makes Brazilian erotic-drama Vento Seco (Dry Wind) an intoxicating watch. Daniel Nolasco writes and directs this, his first narrative feature film, following hot off the tails of his 2019 documentary Mr. Leather – the aftermath of this study into the fetish world can be seen in Dry Wind in its vivid depiction of fetish culture.

Dry Wind follows Sandro (Leandro Faria Lelo), a middle aged man stuck in a monotonous loop of life working at a fertilizer factory and spending his free time at the local communal swimming pool. With a purely sexual relationship with his discreet colleague Ricardo (Allan Jacinto Santana), Sandro is something of an outsider whose life is dominated by his sexual, fetishistic desires – some of which are sated by his colleague. Soon a crush on his edgy Tom of Finland-esque colleague Maicon (Rafael Teóphilo), who flirts with Ricardo, prompts a tidal wave of jealousy in Sandro.

Opening with a plethora of male flesh on display as Sandro relaxes at the swimming pool, Dry Wind’s theme of male same-sex desire is showcased unabashedly as speedos, bulges, and rippling male torsos fill the screen, capturing Sandro’s heightened libido. This is something that continues throughout the narrative, with Sandro’s desires penetrating the narrative, blending dreams and reality as he seeks escape from his pleasant, yet monotonous existence. Director Nolasco has an eye for a visually arresting sequence, blending heightened erotic imagery with powerful neon aesthetics which help craft an atmosphere where Sandro’s sexual encounters have an erotic, dreamy atmosphere.

Nolasco and cinematographer Larry Machado shoot the film in an almost giallo fashion – the fetishised leather, neon-lit scenes, and focus on flesh. There’s a heightened sexual energy pulsating throughout Dry Wind as we navigate life through Sandro’s desires and dreams – from Maicon’s Tom of Finland style leather gear, to what appear to be unsimulated sex scenes between Sandro and Ricardo, and high octane sequences at an S&M club. Scenes in the swimming pool’s male changing rooms with a pink neon lighting also help Dry Wind blend the dreamlike with erotic realism, ensuring the feature is a beautifully shot, pulse-racing feast for senses.

The narrative of Dry Wind centres on Sandro navigating his sexual desires, yet with the realistic subtext of Brazil’s conservative political regime quietly ticking along in the background, Nolasco’s film feels like even more essential viewing. The closeted Sandro and men around him – some sexual partners, some simply colleagues capture a sense of Brazil’s somewhat outdated attitudes to homosexuality whilst serving as a showcase to Sandro’s status as an outsider. This is furthered heightened by the love triangle aspect which builds in the film’s latter third – with Sandro distraught at Maicon and Ricardo’s growing fondness.

Whilst the focus on Sandro’s jealousy in the final third should lead to the most exciting narrative act, the structure of Dry Wind loses shape. Becoming somewhat meandering and ponderous, through lengthy scenes between Sandro and female colleague Paula (Renata Carvalho), Dry Wind feels like it overruns slightly clocking in at just under two hours. Tighter editing during the aforementioned scenes and further time spent dissecting Sandro’s potential mid-life crisis and the Maicon-Ricardo relationship may have been a way to tighten narrative focus.

Despite this, Dry Wind is a truly mesmerising watch for the most part. Unashamedly queer sexual imagery, masterful cinematography, and hugely engaging performances from the three main actors ensure that Dry Wind is not a film viewers will easily forget. Its aggressive sexuality, the blend between surrealist erotic fantasy and pretty yet monotonous reality, set against Brazil’s tense political climate, ensures Nolasco’s film is an essential, scintillating piece of cinema.

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