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Life Cuts

In 2002 I wrote a special review of Mexican cinema, focusing on three films, Amores Perros, Y Tu Mamá Tambien, and De La Calle. The first two are now household names, the last one though was never released in the US. My angle was the recent renaissance in filmmaking in Mexico (this was ten years ago), and how it was very much of it’s time but also with roots in the the golden era of Mexican cinema in the 40s and 50s – a gritty, cinema verité style but with deep passions and smart camera technique.

Here’s an excerpt from the piece:

THE golden age of Mexican cinema, through the 1940s and 1950s, established an aesthetic that was as varied as it was distinctly Mexican. Emilio “El Indio” Fernandez, Alejandro Galindo and Gabriel Figueroa are some of the great names of the era. Three new movies from Mexico, “De La Calle” (Streeters), “Amores Perros” (Love’s a Bitch) and “Y Tu Mama Tambien” (And Your Mama Too), draw on this heritage and redefine it. Part of Mexico’s recent cinematic renaissance, these films embrace experimentation without leaving viewers behind. All three are humanist in outlook and use contemporary Mexico as both a psychological and a physical backdrop for their stories.

In “De La Calle” Gerardo Tort tells the story of two teenagers living on the streets of Mexico city. Using a film-developing process known as silver-retain, which heightens the contrast between light and dark, he creates a world in which the lines between objects are blurred. Daylight is harsh and bleached, so that the brightness of a butcher’s apron stands out against the viscera on his chopping block, while the butcher himself blends into the white-tiled wall. Stealing a ride on a ferris wheel, the two kids talk of escaping from the streets, their forms silhouetted against the electric blue of a pre-dawn sky. This is a kind of realism, albeit one that has more to do with the way Mr Tort captures the essence of a moment or an experience than with his presentation of the visible world. But as such it is an effective way to evoke the harshness of the streets.

“Amores Perros”, directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu, shares the richly textured feel of “De La Calle”. Handheld cameras and Steadicams bring us into its characters’ worlds. In one tense scene the camera pans quickly back and forth between two people, without cuts, focusing on their faces, effectively turning the viewer into a participant.

For the whole article click here.

Amores Perros film poster

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