Shakespeare and Victor Hugo’s Intimacies (gag) is a documentary from first-time Mexican filmmaker Yulene Olaizola. The pretentious title is explained thusly: the director’s grandmother owns a boarding house in Mexico City at the intersection of streets named after Shakespeare and Victor Hugo. So, it could have just as easily been called Main and Oak’s Intimacies, I suppose.
The premise of the film is intriguing. Olaizola’s grandmother Rosa Elena rented a room to a young man named Jorge Rioss for several years. The two shared a very intimate friendship. It was not sexual, as Rioss was gay (although seemingly in denial). A talented musician and painter, Rioss was also a schizophrenic. He also liked to seduce women, steal their identification and show it to Rosa Elena. Rosa Elena dismissed all of Rioss’ eccentricities until he accidentally died after a fire that he seemed to have started in order to destroy some documents.
And, this is where it gets interesting; or at least should. There was a serial killer operating in Mexico City at the time who strangled women in hotel rooms and stole their wallets. He was never caught, but the murders ended when Rioss died. Rosa Elena is now convinced that Rioss was the killer.
This is fodder for great documentary movie making, but the director fails on every level. There seems to have been no research, and she relies only on the memories of her elderly grandmother and the rooming house maid. The revelation about what Rioss may have done is buried deep within the movie, so we are forced to listen to Rosa Elena’s recollections of him while wondering why we should care. He was a gay schizophrenic? Who isn’t? And finally, the film is inexpertly shot. I don’t need fancy tricks, but Olaizola just lets her camera sit there and do nothing.