Middle-aged fertilizer company manager Sandro (Leandro Faria Lelo) is supposed to be helping organize a union, but all he can think about is sex. He has a lot of it with his handsome younger coworker Ricardo (Allan Jacinto Santana), meeting up after their shift in the nearby forest for regular trysts, getting down and dirty in the literal dirt. He also fantasizes about sex nearly constantly, most often with people he interacts with throughout his day. Then one day, a new guy catches his eye — Maicon (Rafael Teóphilo), a motorcycle-riding, leather-clad dreamboat right out of a Tom of Finland drawing.
Over the course of Dry Wind (Vento Seco), the new Brazilian film from writer-director Daniel Nolasco — playing now at the virtual Outfest LA — Sandro, Ricardo, and Maicon are drawn into each other’s orbit. Jealousy, lust, and longing escalate throughout the film against a backdrop of political unrest and a relentless heat wave, leaving everyone parched in more ways than one.
Dry Wind is, above all else, aiming to be erotic, which it largely succeeds at. The sexual encounters — of which there are many! — are explicit, to my eye unsimulated, and beautifully filmed. This is the kind of film where the public pool showers are lit in neon pinks and blues and the showerheads have built-in spotlights. Sandro is a sort of sexual Walter Mitty, given to hardcore, raunchy, kinky fantasies, most of which involve leather, spit, and other bodily fluids. He has visions of sex clubs and alleyway hookups, trysts in cars and down at the beach. Motorcycle seats, once vacated, are there to be licked. Rubber pants are worn even when inappropriate. Do they really even make Adidas tracksuits out of skintight rubber?
It’s fun to see how the film plays with your sense of what’s real and what’s fantasy. Pretty much everyone in the background figures into the Tom of Finland fantasy in some way — even when it’s unremarked on and un-explicit, the ice cream vendors wear cocked sailor hats, the grocery-store security guards have tight pants and large nightsticks, and down at the livestock show, all the chaps are leather. It adds up to a fun, playful, sexually-charged atmosphere that’s never not fun to look at.
That being said, the sex scenes don’t really justify its nearly two hour runtime. A large portion of the movie consists of Sandro staring, sort of waiting for his next fantasy to begin. The jealousy fuelled love-triangle that drives the last act of the film doesn’t even really start until more than an hour in; instead, the film spends a lot of time driving home the repetitive nature of Sandro’s erotic fantasy.
In addition, and this isn’t really the film’s fault but feels worth mentioning nonetheless, I struggled as someone who doesn’t speak Portuguese to really grasp the political implications of what’s going on in the background. Sandro likes to listen to the news on the radio, but the English subtitles don’t really do a good job at conveying what’s being said about some sort of unrest at City Hall. I’m certain this probably relates in some way to Sandro’s mission of helping organize a union, and the politics probably inform Sandro’s aimless flights of sexual fancy, but I really couldn’t put the pieces together. Again, though, that’s on me; I’m sure the film plays differently to Brazilian audiences, who are its intended recipients.
So, without all the deeper subtext that the film is (probably?) working at, until the more emotional stuff kicks off at in the last act, all I was left with was the eroticism. And, you know what? Sometimes that’s enough. The film’s visual language is inherently queer — for me, queer modes of looking are all about longing, and Dry Wind is practically all lingering shots of glances held for too long, nothing but beautiful bodies beheld in beautiful lighting. It’s a scopophile’s dream.