Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Los Olvidados - 1950 - Luis Buñuel


Los Olvidados, translated as The Young and the Damned (the Forgotten), is a treatise on the street-life of kids in Mexico City. There are at least three characters who are of focus here, and three others on the sidelines with equal importance: El Jaibo, a rough young man who's grown up on the street his whole life, and who's picked up more than his share of wicked, ego-driven habits; "Big Eyes" as he's called by a Blind Man (he's credited as Lost Boy on this site) is a kid whose lost his father, and is taken in by the old-fashioned, hardened old man, who lives next to the girl Meche; and Pedro, the hero, is deep down a good soul, but with a side that just wants to roam the streets, at the carelessness of his estranged mother, who like her son is poverty stricken. Pedro, one day, witnesses Jaibo commit a killing of a squealer, and this puts him in a bad position, as his relationship with his mother unfolds, and so on.

All through Los Olvidados, based on real events and real people from the streets, I kept on feeling for these people in the same way I did for the characters I saw in the neo-realism movies like La Terra Trema and Shoeshine. Here are people who are so starkly depicted who can practically smell the streets coming off of them. That they are non-professionals in real settings, like in those movies, and the stories are such simple yet heart-felt, goes to show the mastery of Luis Bunuel. While he became infamous for such films in the thirties like Un Chien Andalou and L'Age D'Or, and later for such originals like Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie and the obscure Phantom of Liberty (the climax in that is something that could've inspired most gross-out comedies of late), this film displays his worth as a writer/director outside of the reputation he garnered in that he tells us the story, with the little details and complex emotions that the Italian directors were able to bring forth, while every once in a while reminding us that it is his brand of movie-making at work.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Short documentary on Arturo Ripstein

Documental Arturo Ripstein

Documental realizado para la Conferencia que impartieron el Director de Cine Mexicano Arturo Ripstein y su esposa la guionista Paz Alicia Garcia-Diego en la U de CI. En Mayo de 2003.

Mexico Cinema

Raíces - 1955

Plot Summary: Mexican and Latin-American classic. Four independent stories based on writer Francisco Rojas Gonzáles's work, depicting the reality of Mexican indian people: Las Vacas, Nuestra Señora, El Tuerto and La Potranca. In El Tuerto, crosseyed boy is made fun of by his mates. His religious mother asks God to make the boy's eyes equal. The outcome is tragic.

User Comments: Clash between 2 Cultures

Long before the Europeans set foot on America, several Indian cultures flourished, specially in the center of Mexico and down to South America. These groups had astounding knowledges that up till today it is still a mystery as to how they acquired them. This very interesting and very well produced film that used no professional actors, is a very good portrait of what happens when we try to view things prejudiced by our own point of view. This is typically a clash of 2 cultures, the European modernity trying to judge what The "Chamula" Indians in the Southeast part of Mexico had been doing for centuries. It is a clash between pagan and religious beliefs, between desire and pride, between poverty and riches, between faith and reality, between tradition and modernity. It is very interesting to follow the plot of the 4 different stories being narrated. This is a movie that should not be missed by Latin Americans or any one else that wants to understand how the natives lived on this part of the world long before we were "discovered" by the Europeans.

Raices - directed by Benito Alazraki

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Cronos - 1993

Plot Summary: in 1535, an alchemist builds an extraordinary mechanism encapsulated into a small golden device. The invention, designed to convey eternal life to its owner, survives its maker until 1997 when it shows up to an antiquarian. Fascinated with the strange device, Gris (Luppi) doesn't note that there's more than one person looking for it. The promise of eternal life has become an obsession to old and sick Mr. De la Guardia (Brook). He and his nephew (Perlman) will do anything to get the "Chronos Invention".

When antiques dealer Jesús finds the legendary Cronos device within a statue he accidentally uses it. It feeds on his life force in exchange for eternal life. However wealthy Dieter and his nephew Angel also want the device and are willing to do anything to get it.

This is certainly a different vision of the vampire story, it dispels with a lot of the gore, the castles, Igor etc, but keeps the sunlight, the through the heart death etc. The story moves very slowly and is focused on Jesús and the devices' effect on him. His accidental transformation causes concern within his granddaughter and he finds that eternity has a price. The scenes between Jesús and Aurora are touching and make a nice change from the blood letting scenes.

The action is never really forthcoming and it is a little stilted in a way. Pearlman's character is a good addition to the story, but it does move so slowly that it may be a disappointment to those expecting a horror film. Luppi is good as Jesús, haunted by a gift he never wanted, Tamara is also strong as his granddaughter.

Overall it's an interesting retelling of a famous story. The direction is faultless although the story occasionally feels aimless and drifting.

Directed by Guillermo del Toro. With Federico Luppi, Ron Perlman, Claudio Brook

Cronos Trailer on YouTube

Abre los Ojos - 1997

Plot Outline: An imprisoned man hides his face behind a mask is telling his story, as a flashback, to a psychiatrist: his name is César, he is an orphan but he had inherited a fortune from his parents, and he used to live in a luxurious house of his his own. He was also very handsome and a renowned womanizer. His best friend, Pelayo, was jealous of César because he was not very successful with women. But one night, Pelayo showed up in one of César's parties with a beautiful woman named Sofía. When César met her and talked to her for a while, he began to feel something he had never felt before: love. And, although she was supposed to be Pelayo's girlfriend, he tried to woo her, spending that night at her home. But Nuria, with whom César had his last affair, was very jealous; she went to pick him up in her car the next morning, and committed suicide by ramming it into a tree. César survived the crash, but his face was hideously disfigured, his handsome looks gone. Doctors said they couldn't help him. He was very depressed and still in love with Sofía. One night he went out with her and Pelayo, and he felt that they were very uncomfortable with his presence. But the morning after, his luck seemed to change completely: Sofía came to him, saying that it was he whom she really loved, and the doctors called him and told him that, with a revolutionary new technique, they could rebuild his face, which they did. César was happier than ever, but that's when the really strange and scary things started to happen...and César found out that the real nightmare had only just began for him....

"Abre Los Ojos" is one of the most astonishing movies I have ever seen. It's so full of astounding twists that it constantly makes you sit up and wonder what the next shot will bring you. At the same time, you keep wondering if a movie with so many twists will be able to tie everything up at the end, but Amenabar and his co-writer manage to do just that, in a reasonably (if not perfectly) satisfying manner. Eduardo Noriega's acting is so good it's beyond belief, and so is the "disfiguring" makeup. Pair this off with "The Game" for a truly mind-bending double feature and see what cinema should be like more often.

Directed by Alejandro Amenábar. With Eduardo Noriega, Penélope Cruz
Mexico Cinema

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Mexico Cine & Video Clips

These are mostly movies I have collected over the years. Many bought thru Amazon, some copied from television to VHS and lately downloaded with a Torrent client.

Many descriptions are from Amazon and reviews are from IMDb

Peliculas de Mexico
San Diego Latino Film Festival