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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.

¡Que Viva México!

February 25, 2009

Me costó bastante entender la película hasta el final, cuando hablaron de soldaderas.   La falta de una narrativa y tener que leer subtítulos lo hizo bastante difícil. No entendí al principio por qué hablaron de aquella muchacha que se casaba, y porque, por lo menos al parecer fue la misma muchacha, en el principio andaba sin camisa, y después siempre vestida.  Hasta el final no entendí que intentaba hacer un recorrido de la historia de México… una historia de opresión hasta el fin de la película cuando nos dice que querían representar las revoluncionarias ‘soldaderas’ que darían esperanza a los oprimidos.

Otras cosas que me llamaron la atención incluyen lo siguiente: cuando el narrador pregunta ¿Esto es lo que esperabas? a la muchacha que se casa.  No tenemos explicación de muchos imágenes, como la escena con los botes de remos decorados.  Tampoco entendí por qué incluyeron, y además dedicaron tanto tiempo, a la corrida de toros.  Lo que yo entendí del epílogo fue que la primera parte de la película trataba de la opresión, pero no vi a los toreros como oprimidos.

Me gustaría haber visto la parte de las soldaderas, creo que el resto de la película tendría más sentido quizás, cuando uno puede relacionarlo con esa parte que falta.

Lo que sí me gusto de esta película fue la fotografía, especialmente al principio con las caras vivas y caras de piedra.

Batalla en el Cielo

February 11, 2009

This film was very interesting to watch, despite its prolonged depictions of apparently mundane events.  There was such a lack of dialogue, which was refreshing and disconcerting at the same time for me; it is refreshing because it seems more honest (for lack of a better word), seeing as we are not always talking, especially about precisely the things the audience wants to hear, and we don’t always have eloquent or well-put-together things to say, even though this occurs in so many films.  It is disconcerting, because we are used to getting more information about what is going on, and we feel uncomfortable, hence, with such long silences, which make us wonder at what is happening/being depicted. I, for one, wish we knew why they had kidnapped a little boy and what exactly had happened, whether Jaime knows about Ana and Marcos, what happened to make her want to be with him, etc.  Yet at the same time it is intriguing that the director leaves these out.  Much like there are not always explanations for the things we witness every day. I enjoyed the photography and sound design in this film – especially in the airport towards the beginning, where as they walk through, you hear the music and ambient noise change and they pass different shops, etc.

This film did a lot to make the audience uncomfortable, perhaps to make them think and consider their reality? Among other things, it spends an extraordinarily long time focusing on Ana and Marcos’ oral sex in the beginning, shaking the audience out of complacent, passive viewing within the first scene.  Later, things such as an obese couple having sex, Marcos wetting himself, the long takes of sex or naked bodies… and finally, the long silences throughout the film… these all contribute to this uncomfortability.

Before we saw this film, I had read reviews and found that people either loved it or hated it.  I find myself somewhere in between – appreciating its honesty and its unconventionality and interested in the cinematography on the one hand, but, like I said, a bit disconcerted by the silence, the grotesque images, the lack of explanation of people’s actions, etc.  The discussion on Thursday should prove quite interesting.

Callejón de los Milagros

February 4, 2009

I don’t even know where to start with this film.  It was intense, but more difficult for me to discuss than the other ones; I guess I am still trying to wrap my head around everything.

The way in which the film jumps from person to person is interesting, but leaves certain gaps.  Earlier in the film, for example, Rutilio’s marraige is falling apart due to his affair with Jimmy, but after Jimmy’s injury, we don’t see him again and Rutilio seems to be back with his wife.  We don’t know what happened in the meantime. Also… why did Alma go back to the pimp, José Luis, after she had fought him earlier?

It also would have been interesting to see Chava and Abel’s experiences in the U.S. – if for no other reason than to further develop Abel’s struggle to provide for and marry Alma.

More thoughts to come tomorrow in my responses…

Mecánica Nacional

January 28, 2009

Mecánica Nacional – una película acera de como funciona la sociedad mexicana…?  En esa película hay muchas conversaciones (literalmente, entre los hombres en la fiesta) y comentarios (más sútiles) acerca de la sociedad méxicana.

La familia es la unidad central es no sólo esta película sino en la sociedad mexicana (latinoamericana). Como ejemplo de la relación muy cerca entre las mujeres de la familia, la mamá (esposa del hombre protagonista) dice que ella tiene igual derecho a llorar por la abuela, aunque el esposo no quiera que lo haga.

La hipocrasía es muy común en esa película;  El papá (protagonista) de la muchacha en la camisa morada, cuando se cae encima de los novios, habla de broma cn los jovenes hasta que se da cuenta de que es su hija y entonces se enoja muchísimo.  Además, él y su amigo buscaban una mujer cuando andaban entre los árboles.  Sin embargo, se enoja muchísimo con su hija y su esposa (quién no había hecho nada) hasta maltratarlas/pegarlas.  Es como si los hombres estuvieran exento de culpa.  Esos hombres son muy hipócratas.  La gente también demuestra hipocrasía cuando dejan de rezar por la muerte de la abuela para ir a ver la carrera.

El machismo, como en la sociedad mexicana, predomina en Mecánica Nacional.  Los hombres pelean mucho, persiguen a las novias/esposas de otros hombres, se enojan y maltratan a sus esposas/hijas cuando hayan hecho daño a su reputación. Esta película también llama la antención a la facilidad con que muchos hombres llevan un arma de fuego encima y las usan para ganar peleas.

Hay momentos que uno puede interpretar como comedia; por ejemplo, cuando la gente deja de rezar por la abuela para ir a ver la carrera, el hombre que se emborracha y saca su pistola a gusto, etc.  Sin embargo, yo no lo veo como comedia sino un comentario sobre ciertas problemas de la sociedad.

Por el lenguaje, la rapidéz con la cual hablan, y la borrachera de los hombres en mucho de la película (y su manera entonces de hablar no muy claro), me costó entender el diálogo en ciertos momentos.  Por eso me interesa ver en los blogs y la discusión el jueves, cosas sútiles que quizás hayan visto otras personas en esta película que yo no entendí por el diálogo…

Los Olvidados

January 21, 2009

Yo vi esa película en la secundaria, pero aquella vez no entendí casi nada (probablemente por que no había subtítulos.) El lenguaje de la película es bastante difícil de entender por el ‘slang’.  Pero esta vez, gracias a la ayuda de los subtítulos, entendí la mayoría del diálogo.  Sin embargo, de la trama hay ciertas cosas que se me hacen difícil entender. Yo entiendo que cuando el Jaibo mata a Julian es por venganza.  También supongo que atacan al ciego para ‘recuperar la dignidad’ del grupo después de que el ciego había herido a uno de sus miembros.  Pero me impresionó lo extremo que fueron los acciones de esos chicos.  Especialmente por que no nos explica bien los motivos y omite el desarollo del conflicto.  Tampoco entendí el sueño… espero la discusión del sueño el jueves.

Aunque Buñuel quizás pretende hacer un documental, no lo es.  Entiendo que los sucesos son reales, documentados (?). Pero hay muchos elementos dramáticos inapropiados para un documental (e.g. al final cuando la mamá de Pedro saluda a Meche y su padre mientras sacan el cadáver del hijo que anda buscando, y cuando Jaibo “por coincidencia” está esperando precisamente cuando Pedro sale de la escuela granja.  Además un documental no sería enteramente actuado.  El momento en que Pedro tira el huevo hacía la cámera me pareció raro; por nuestra discusión supe que era un intento de mostrar la presencia de la cámera para que la película sea posiblemente considerado un documental.  Pero sólo había un momento así… sería más efectivo si hubiera hecho más cosas así.