Archive for March, 2009

Review…

March 31, 2009

I have never been in a film class before, except for a Literature and Film class in High School in which we talked about how books were adapted into films, but I didn’t get much out of that class.  I am totally the person who will watch a film quite passively, as entertainment. I will not often stick with or see value in films I do not like.  This class made me realize the merit in films I usually would have written off.  It doesn’t mean I am going to watch them voluntarily, but at least I can get something out of them now.  For example, I hated Three Amigos at first, but I grew to appreciate it more the more I thought about it and the parodies it made.  It was nice to see Mexican films, especially dating so far back, as I haven’t seen that many.  I saw part of Los Olvidados in High School and remember strongly disliking it, because I didn’t understand it. But in this course with the discussion and the articles, it helps me to see more clearly what a film is doing or at leas trying to do… then I can form an opinion.  I am simply not accustomed to watching a film critically in this sort of way.

So… review? I will talk about the most memorable parts of the course, I guess.  We started with Cantinflas in Aguila o Sol and Bunuel’s Los Olvidados, two of the most famous artists in early Mexican cinema. When I told my friend about this class and the movies we were watching, she responded with disgust for both of them.  This was interesting for me, taking this into account when reading articles about what people think of Cantinflas, etc.  Callejón de los Milagros was the one film that I see the relationship between the US and Mexico in; many young men go to the States for work, but we see all the shops in el Callejon going out of business, and the changes in the lives of those they leave behind. The film that struck me the most from the first half of the class was Batalla en el Cielo, for its lack of dialogue and movement, which made me uncomfortable, and as a result, more involved in watching it.

Honestly, it is hard for me to relate the first half of the class with the second. I understand that the first half was about Mexico City because of the original plan for the course.  The second half was mostly about the border, as the US naturally has an interest in the border more than the city.  But the fact that the focus of the films in either half is so different it makes it difficult to compare the two.  We are supposed to be thinking about representations of Mexico in this class, but the Mexico of the border and the Mexico of the D.F. are really different to begin with.

As for the second half, like I said above, I usually would not like any of these films… but upon closer examination and through the discussions in this course I can appreciate them nonetheless, for various reasons.

Traffic.

March 25, 2009

May I say, first of all, that I find it interesting watching this movie on the same day that I was reading on BBC about the U.S. intensifying border control to fight drugs.

I was really bothered by the coloring of Mexico (in a sickly yellow) and the northern cities (in blue).  It contributed to the portrayal of Mexico as dirty, corrupt, desolate, drug-ridden desert, which already I would take issue with.  And the blue was just so unnatural, it made me uncomfortable.  California was normal, I guess because it is at the intersection between U.S. and Mexico, but then that didn’t fit with the coloring of everything else.

I really liked the point that the daughter’s friend made about how black people were selling drugs because of all the white people looking for drugs… and that if a bunch of people asked white people for drugs all the time, it would be them selling.  This was one of the better moments of this film, since the portrayal of both African Americans and Mexicans in this film was quite derogatory.  Another part that was good for me was the fact that it was a spoiled over-acheiving a-student, daughter of the drug czar who was the biggest drug addict in the film.  It was refreshing, because in many films the drug addicts are poor, stuggling artists or someting in that vein… when in fact, and I can vouch -having gone to a high school with lots of rich kids with drug problems and a having a classmate, star football player die of a cocaine overdose my senior year- the rich, but secretely troubled, kids are some of the biggest consumers out there.

Those are my initial reactions/thoughts. I think that the discussion Thursday should be quite interesting.

Three Amigos

March 18, 2009

I am not a fan of Steve Martin.  At all. Nor the other main actors (the other two amigos) in this movie, based on the types of movies I know them to usually be in.  When we started the film and I saw the cast, I thought I was going to hate it.  And at first, I didn’t like it, all I could see was stereotypes of Mexico.  A naive, uneducated, beautiful Mexican country girl, not having been exposed to film, we will assume, takes it to be reality, and writes to the Three Amigos for help.  It poked fun at the communication disconnect between Americans and Mexicans, which was fine.  But if you take it as representing actual people, Mexico, etc. it is quite offensive, or at least could be seen as such.

However, once I realized that it was not trying to represent Mexico so much as make fun of Hollywood and the old Western movies, I had a greater appreciation for the movie.  It alluded to the ignorance of so many big screen actors who represent people without knowing anything about them really.  Like Dusty asks if there is some other food, they don’t understand what the girl is asking of them, they through a fit at El Guapo when they realize it is real, and they keep saying the same lines over and over again, even when they realized it is not a show.  It also had so many allusions to Westerns, such as the Mexican villain and the Gringos who come in and save the day.  The unnecessary amount of shooting guns, drinking, mistreating women… etc.  The correspondences to the Wild Bunch (and other westerns, I am sure, I just haven’t seen many) were actually quite numerous once I stopped to think about them: the Germans being the most striking one.

So, though I started out not liking the movie, when looking at it as a parady of films, and not of real people, it is much easier to appreciate.

The Wild Bunch

March 11, 2009

This movie really didn’t sit well with me.  It was full of violence, seemingly purely for the sake of violence.  People were killed indiscriminantly, despite the allusion to groups such as the main one, the railroad group and the Mepache military.  In the beginning we see children enjoying watching a scorpion die, engulfed in a million ants, and then light them on fire.  We then see a bunch of gun-happy men on the roof of a building talking about who can shoot a particular person the best.  We aren’t told what the premise of the shooting is… it just begins and the entire town is involved, with women being trampled, children watching, etc.  Then, a couple of guys see the dead people as a good thing, since they get their boots, etc. rather than realizing that a life was taken.  I understand that one of the main characters shoots their comrade because he is in such bad shape and suffering, but there doesn’t seem to be much real remorse, since they head on their way soon after.  The same thing with Angel, they seem disturbed by watching Angel being drug around by Mepache, but then they accept the offer to go sleep with whores, saying ‘they might as well’.  In short, I really didn’t understand the movie.  I am not all that familiar with Western films, but the level of violence in this film went above and beyond.  It didn’t even seem to matter that it took place in Mexico, the whole film just revolved around killing… they didn’t appear to go to Mexico with any purpose… etc.  It will be interesting to discuss this film and how it constructs Mexico on Thursday… personally, I had a hard time seeing past all the unnecessary violence.

Touch of Evil

March 4, 2009

This was an interesting film to watch. It did bother me that Charles Heston was playing a Mexican, I must say.  However, the cinematography was quite good.  I especially enjoyed the use of lighting and when (as a result of such lighting) we see great shadows running past on the wall.

It was interesting, because it had the Mexican Grandi family as villains, which one might have expected… but the white men aren’t necesarily heroes.  In fact, the main cop (I forget his name), was quite the villain in a way.  And it was the Mexican cop, Vargas, who had stronger morals and called him out for being dirty.

We didn’t see many Mexican women characters (only a few from the Grandi gang)  in this film, but Susan was a very strong woman, which was refreshing.  She may not be the brightest, but she wasn’t scared by the Grandi men, for the most part.

My first thought about this film was that the majority of it didn’t take place in Mexico.  All the other films we have seen have taken place in Mexico, and most in Mexico City.  It was interesting, however, to see the issues surrounding border towns, the debates over jurisdiction and “our side”/”your side” …  but it did surprise me that the Mexican characters spoke English between themselves so much of the time.

I am curious as to why they decided to have a character like the (quite odd) night man at the motel.  It seemed that, while the Mexican side of the border is thriving and full of activity, the American side is so desolate and dysfunctional.

One other thing about the cinematography that I found interesting was how it jumped back and forth between different places and people, so you were left to wonder sometimes what was happening to the others.  For example, with Susan, they imply that the Grandi gang did terrible things to her, but in the end it was faked (according the the main Grandi guy) and she was simply drugged with a legal drug.