Almost fifteen years ago, Chilean director Sebastian Silva and his cowriter Pedro Peirano delivered their best film. It was called “The Maid” (“La Nana”) (Chile: 2009). The film centered on the devoted maid (the wonderful Catalina Saavedra) of a middle-class Chilean household who had a special place in her heart for the lone son of the family, Lucas, an obvious stand-in for the young Sebastian.
Now, after ten years in the (relative) wilderness, Saavedra and Silva (and Silva’s co-screenwriter Peirano) have returned with a delicious slice of meta which is, pointedly, entitled “Rotting in the Sun”. Saavedra is still a maid but she has been relocated from Santiago to Mexico City where she waits on basically the same person that she waited on in that previous movie; the adult version of Lucas/Sebastian who is played by the director himself! Now, whether the actress Saavedra is meant to be playing the same character in both movies is anyone’s guess. It’s unlikely, however, since her name in “La Nana'” is Raquel while in her present incarnation, she is called Vero (short for Veronica). The “Sebastian Silva” we get in this movie is a wreck. He’s a ketamine addict who is barely staying afloat and constantly daydreams of committing suicide with the aid of a barbiturate overdose. He rents a room in a ramshackle apartment – the owner is Vero’s boss. He is currently unemployed and pitching ideas. He is always pitching ideas.
Then, an acquaintance suggests that he go and unwind at a nudist gay beach. He takes the guy up on his advice. It is at this juncture that we get to the raciest part of the movie. There are cocks everywhere. Some are directly in front of the camera in various states of tumescence and there is what looks like unsimulated sex. However, most of the phalluses are shown in quick almost subliminal pulses that remind you of “The Exorcist” and raise the possibility that the mischievous ghost of Bill Friedkin escaped and enjoyed an afternoon in Silva’s editing room.
Following a double near-drowning experience, Sebastian meets up with real-life motormouth and Instagram influencer Jordan Firstman – essentially playing himself – in a hilarious “performance.” Firstman is attracted to Silva both physically and as a potential commercial partner. Silva, however, being in a perpetual funk, wants nothing to do with him. Returning home, however, he changes his mind after his latest pitch to HBO fails, but the interviewers show an interest in a joint Firstman/Silva project. Silva immediately contacts Firstman to come to Mexico City. Then, in a split second of sheer genius, our actor/director allows himself the benefit of doing a simultaneous Alfred Hitchcock and Janet Leigh in a “Psycho” – inspired package, resulting in Jordan arriving at an empty apartment with only Vero to keep him company.
Vero’s English is not the best and the translating app that Jordan has acquired could be better – the resulting translations, in both English and Spanish, are uproarious. Meanwhile, the mystery of Silva’s disappearance deepens, and it’s not too much of a giveaway to say that, at this stage, the film’s title has come into play. As for Jordan’s Instagram posts? Let’s just say that, by now, they have become more and more meta!