Dormir al sol
Argentina, 2010, 83 min
Every dog has his day in Argentine filmmaker Alejandro Chomski’s beguiling metaphysical mystery, a wildly inventive mix of Kafkaesque nightmare and political allegory that digs soul-deep into the surreal psyche of man’s best friend. At first, all seems tranquilo in 1950s Buenos Aires, where hapless family man Lucio (a wonderfully hangdog Luis Machín) bides his time as an unemployed watchmaker in the picturesque neighborhood of Parque Chas, laid out in a circular system of labyrinthine streets that, like the film’s twisting narrative strands, repeatedly turn in on themselves and offer no clear means of escape. Lucio’s neurasthenic wife, Diana (Esther Goris, deftly transitioning from happy-homemaker acquiescence to whacked-out puppy love), seeks solace from her nervous disorders at the local pet shop, where she stares for hours at preternaturally self-possessed pooches who return her gaze with uncanny understanding. Concerned that Diane is slipping too far into dog-dominated daydreams, Lucio commits her to a phrenopathic institute overseen by the sinister pseudoscientist Dr. Samaniego. Upon her release from the cloistered sanitarium, Diana isn’t quite the same; for one thing, the formerly demure esposa has a sudden hankering for oral sex. Has a Body Snatchers–style switcheroo taken place? Brilliantly directed and lensed, with every 1950s period detail art-directed to perfection (characters, clothing and even wallpaper are carefully color-coordinated), Chomski’s singularly bizarre identity-theft thriller also plays as a critique of totalitarian brainwashing: At whose command does Fido fetch so willingly? With dry humor and wry horror, Asleep In the Sun awakens audiences from passive viewing.