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Sólo con Tu Pareja: The Criterion Collection

This 1991 sex farce was the first feature from Alfonso Cuarón, an international hit that helped launch his American career — yet, oddly, it was never released in the United States until 2006. The stunningly versatile director is known as much for his mastery of gorgeous visuals in films like A Little Princess (1995) and Great Expectations (1998) as for the social commentary of his grittier Y Tu Mamá También (2001), and this film offers a bit of both, albeit with a lack of the panache of his later, more mature efforts. Boyish womanizer Tomás Tomás (Daniel Giménez Cacho) is an ad man struggling to come up with a campaign slogan for canned jalapenos, partly because the lion's share of his energy is channeled into bedding as many women as he can. While juggling his amorous boss (Isabel Benet) and a sexy nurse (Dobrina Liubomirova) in a Blake Edwards-like arrangement that involves traversing a window ledge between two apartments, he spies his new neighbor, a pretty young stewardess named Clarisa (Claudia Ramírez). After he falls for her, Tomás is sure he can change his ways — but the spurned nurse turns spiteful and falsifies the results of his recent exam to read that he's HIV-positive, leading Tomás on a journey of self-analysis that ends in a wacky chase scene. If this all sounds a little discordant, well, it is. Cuarón's debut feature suffers from a lack of a consistent tone — is it a madcap sex romp, a dark comedy about AIDS, or a morality tale about the dangers of promiscuity? The picture tries to hit all of these notes and, sadly, ends up mastering none of them. It doesn't help that Cacho, while handsome, doesn't have the charisma to pull of the role of an irresistible seducer. But the film looks great — cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki would later shoot Cuarón's stunning A Little Princess, as well as other visually sumptuous pictures like Sleepy Hollow, Lemon Snicket's An Unfortunate Series of Events, and Terrence Malick's The New World — and it's always interesting to go back and view a director's earlier work to see the themes and visual devices that carry thought their later, more mature works. For fans of Cuarón, it's definitely worth a look.

Criterion's DVD release features an excellent, high-def digital transfer that was supervised by Lubezki, and it really is lovely — Cuarón's uses of colors (green especially) is pronounced and deliberate, and this is a sharp, clean, very colorful presentation. The Dolby 2.0 stereo audio is also very good, making the most of the picture's quirky, Mozart-laden soundtrack. A "making-of" featurette (30 min.) offers up Cuarón, his screenwriter brother Carlos and star Cacho discussing the film 15 years after it was made, allowing them a detailed analysis that can only come with that sort of distance. It's genuinely interesting, even if Carlos comes off as something of a pretentious twit (discussing his entry into the film business, he says, "I was holding hands with my sweetheart named Literature, we were like nervous, sweaty-palmed lovers. Then this guy introduced me to this whore named Cinema, and she gave such great head that I stayed with her") with Cuarón discussing not just the film but the entire arc of his career. Also on board are two short films by Cuarón, "Quartet for the End of Time" (1983, 23 min.) and "Wedding Night" (2000, 5 min.), plus the theatrical trailer. There's also a booklet with an essay on the film by Ryan E. Long and a "biography" of  Tomás Tomás, written by Carlos Cuarón to provide Cacho with background on his character. Keep-case.
—Dawn Taylor

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