the story: A disenchanted author and college professor is seduced by a younger woman, snapping him out of an existential lull and helping him reconnect together with his creativity. It’s a narrative that lands clumsily in 2022, romanticizing a problematic power dynamic and casting women as mere accessories to a person’s personal growth.
“Art of Love,” directed by Betty Kaplan, is a male fantasy. Called only the Author (Esai Morales), the film’s lead is an enigmatic older man surrounded by women who fawn over him, despite his apathy. When he starts receiving cryptic messages from an admirer — slipped to him by a young woman on a skateboard, etched on the sidewalk in chalk or hidden within the pages of a book — the Author is seemingly invigorated for the primary time. He soon finds out the messages are from a young Chinese immigrant named Li Chao (Kunjue Li), wanting to escape the confines of her situation. The 2 set off on a giggly, disturbing and confusing journey through the town, placing art installations, having pseudo-deep talks and eventually becoming physical, despite Li’s early proclamation that she is a lesbian.
The film is rife with tropes and stereotypes: Li’s character is a model of demureness and subservience who serves as a mouthpiece for problematic beliefs, at one point noting that her “irregular selection” to read makes her an anomaly in her insular Chinese community. Lesbianism is treated as a matter of circumstance fairly than a full identity.
And the film reinforces the fiction that it is usually younger ladies who seduce older men and never the opposite way around. The writing, which leaves much to be desired, underscores these issues. Tortured by Li’s elusiveness, the Author ponders during certainly one of his solipsistic reflections why Li “was so insistent in possessing me.” It’s a drained and male-serving narrative one wishes could be retired.
Art of Love
Rated R for graphic sexual content, nudity and a few language. In Spanish and English, with subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 56 minutes. In theaters and available to rent or buy on Apple TV, Google Play and other streaming platforms and pay TV operators.