This German feature dealing with the global AIDS epidemic, though well-intentioned and ably acted, is unrelentingly grim and depressing. Nonetheless, in his feature debut, writer-director Jochen Hick does offer a few disturbing things to think about.
Presented in true cinema verite style, this L'AVVENTURA-style odyssey opens in Hamburg, where Frank (Peter Senner), a frail Lufthansa flight attendant with AIDS, has but one ambition: to fly to Rio in search of Mario, the homosexual hustler who may have infected him with the deadly virus. Tagging
along with Frank on his trip to South America is a documentary filmmaker (Yves Jansen) who is preparing a documentary on Frank's journey for broadcast over German television. (Ironically, VIA APPIA was initially commissioned by German television's Second Channel, but delayed for one year because
of its unflinching candidness.) Once in Rio, Frank joins forces with Jose (Guilherme de Padua, a former street-hustler turned actor for this film), an earthily handsome youth who keeps Frank on a string with his glib promises to help track down Mario. Meanwhile, the would-be documentarian becomes
decidedly disenchanted with the whole business.
Sprinkled with generous amounts of male nudity, VIA APPIA (the title derives from the section in Rio de Janeiro where young men and boys sell themselves for homosexual sex) is tediously, even numbingly, repetitive. Hick, shooting in gritty 16mm, was clearly attempting to make an honest,
provocative and distinctively blunt personal statement about AIDS, but his passion for showing endless pseudo-documentary footage of bathhouses, sleazy bars and dreary back streets tends to undermine any effective point he might otherwise have made. (Sexual situations, adult situations,nudity.)
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