Friday, February 29, 2008

Two of Mexican Cinema

I had a rollicking time in Mexico City last week - despite dire predictions from people who had and hadn't been there. But I'm bad at writing travelogues: so I'll focus on this one particular interaction instead.

Unlike my previous time in Mexico, I did get some face time with people who had been born and raised in the country and having been bombarded with a blast of pop culture in the back seat DVD player in my taxicab from the airport, I decided to ask some searching questions.

I started on the wrong foot, asking about RBD. Much laughter ensued that included a lot of teasing. Well those shiny young singing and strutting boys and gals seemed personable enough, but sensing a Britney Spears-like situation, I decided to withdraw my curiosity and instead focus on Mexican cinema.

And I ended up asking for recommendations with the soochna that I didn't want to see Antonio Banderas blowing up ten Mexicans with one bullet. Instead I wanted to watch films that told me what makes Mexican people laugh, cry and feel apprehensive about. I wanted mainstream social drama that might have passed me by before.

I've seen the celebrated stuff from the hotshot Mexican directors turning Hollywood upside down today like Iñárritu's heart-rending Amores Peros, Arau's sensual factory Como Agua para Chocolate or Cuarón's provocative Y tu mamá también. And I was reminded with much pride that Pan's Labyrinth may have been a Spanish movie, but the brain behind it was Mexican.

I ended up with two recommendations from the junta. I'm sure the prime directive was lost somewhere because one, the recommendations came after much debate in which I'm certain pride was involved and two, my profession for the general hotness of Salma Hayek might have tilted the scales a bit.

I'm not passing these movies on as an introduction to Mexican cinema - that would be injustice. Just sharing something I picked up in case you are looking for something different to watch in the coming weeks. I've reproduced the Netflix movie synopsis below for guidance.

El Crimen del padre Amaro (2002, Director: Carlos Carrera)

From Netflix: "Recently ordained priest Padre Amaro (Gael Garcia Bernal) travels to a small town in Mexico to help Padre Benito (Sancho Gracia) -- only to discover that Benito is following neither church nor local laws. But Amaro's shock is countered by his own actions when he falls in love with sensual, young Amelia (Ana Claudia Talancon), unleashing a scandal that the diocese, with Amaro's aid, scrambles to contain in this Oscar-nominated drama."

Ek Callejon de los Milagros (1995, Director: Jorge Fons)

From Netflix: "Four interlacing vignettes chronicle the lives of three neighbors in this slice-of-life drama, which plays out in a tumbledown section of Mexico City. The episodic tale profiles a married cantina owner (Ernesto Gómez Cruz) who discovers his latent homosexual feelings; a young virgin (Salma Hayek) who ultimately surrenders to prostitution and drugs; and an unattractive spinster (Margarita Sanz) who's looking for love in all the wrong places."


Anonymous said...

Aspi, thanks for the suggestions. Is this the beginning of a movie club at the Drift? Could be fun. At any rate I've added them to my Netflix Q.

The BH and I love Mexico and we've been to different parts of the country on several trips. I feel homesick for India when I'm in Mexico!

Unknown said...

Movie club. I like that. If anyone has recommendations pass them on. I like phoren philums - especially since watching too much mainstream stuff can get to you. Now a lot of phoren philums released in the US is mainstream stuff too - but the difference in language and culture makes it more satisfying to watch.

mimi said...

Gael... yum, yum... actually, been meaning to watch El Crimen del padre Amaro for a while now but got out A Bad Education by mistake. Which is an intriguing film in itself, and kinda surreal. And Gael makes a very good transvestite.

I do love Latin American anything though... need to check out more!

Unknown said...

No matter how hard you try to dislike Bernal because he's got this matinee idol thing going, one thing is for sure: he is a very sincere actor and an admirable one. I liked him a lot in Motorcycle Diaries.

mimi said...

Yes, he's definitely a worthy actor. For all his pretty boy looks, I'm glad he hasn't gone done the very easy route of playing up to his heart throb status - he's always stuck with the offbeat path and done pretty well so far.

but to move away from the phoren for a moment - just saw Jodha Akbar finally! gosh... still need to gather my thoughts but was glad to see a much-hyped film that didn't disappoint like a bag of wet sand. despite the flowerpot men. ruining my favourite song.