Monday, November 07, 2005

Cine Mexico at Film Forum & PFA

Cine Mexico
Featured at Film Forum (NYC) Summer 2004, and at Pacific Film Archive (Berkeley) Winter 2004.

Many American viewers are unaware of the great tradition of filmmaking in Mexico and how that industry has reflected its society’s idealism and proud cultural heritage from its historical origins to the present. Cine Mexico showed moviegoers that Mexican cinema has paralleled many of the stylistic penchants that have driven countless Hollywood classics – from “western” styled folkloric pieces to Peliculas Romanticos, and absurdist comedies that rival the adventures of the Marx Brothers.

Here is a short list of some of the memorable films I caught at Film Forum and PFA. Many of these are available on VHS, but have not ye**.3*t made the transfer to DVD. I borrowed a few descriptions from the PFA reader’s guide and those entries are marked accordingly.

1) That’s the Point (1940)
This is the film that established the comedian Cantinflas as a superstar – the Charlie Chaplin of Spanish-language films. But where Chaplin used silence, Cantinflas’s urban vagabond, the pelidito, confronts the arrogance and hypocrisy of the Mexican middle-class with words – lots of them, brilliantly woven into a web of semantic confusion. (PFA)

2) Tender Little Pumpkins (1948)
A botched suicide attempt leads to a veritable conga line of comic events in this delightful musical starring Tin Tan – the Mexican equivalent of Jerry Lewis. (PFA)

3) Aventurera (1949)
Moody melodramas known as rumberas were, like their heroines on screen, socially condemned by the middle class only to become forbidden pleasures for their cult following. Aventurera is considered the epitome of the genre and features a dynamic performance by the Cuban rumba dancer Ninon Sevilla, the queen of the cabareteras, cast successfully against Andrea Palma. (PFA)

4) Miroslava (1993)
Miroslava is about a woman whose life was so much larger than the life she had to be a movie star. Considered one of the most beautiful actresses in Mexican cinema history, Miroslava acted in about two dozen films before committing suicide in 1955 at the age of 25. (PFA)

5) Frida (1984)
I much preferred Paul Leduc’s Frida to Julie Taymor’s recent effort. Where Taymor rushed you through her smorgasbord of color, image and flesh, Leduc allows you to float effortlessly in Frida’s interior worlds. Subtlety and grace are the operating principles in illuminating the serious detachment needed for Frida Kahlo to find her unique and delightfully disturbing vision. (PG)

6) Illusion Travels by Streetcar (1954)
One of Luis Bunuel’s Mexico City chronicles, Illusion posits a revolutionary manifesto as two streetcar workers hijack one of their repair subjects and give unbridled service to the sprawling metropolis. A cleverly funny look at the absurdity of bureaucracy, Illusion takes the neo-realistic aims of the Bicycle Thief and couples it with a logic that would have pleased Eugene Ionesco. (PG)

7) Danzon (1991)
Set in Mexico City and Veracruz, Maria Novaro’s 1991 dreamy tale is a road movie led by an unlikely heroine. Maria Rojo plays Julia, who leaves Mexico City to search for her long-term dance partner, Carmello. Inciting a delicate character study that would satisfy fans of Central Station, Danzon casts Julia to the dancehalls of Veracruz, where she meets characters that could have easily graced the early films of Pedro Almaldovar (but without the forced hyper-anxieties). Filled from end to end with exquisite music, most of which is performed by groups on screen, Danzon is an endearing character study packed with compassion for the human experience and the subtle epiphanies of a woman in pursuit of liberation and self-discovery. (PG)


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