A movie log formerly known as Bookishness / By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Saturday, April 28, 2018

El Norte (Gregory Nava, 1983)

Zaide Silvia Gutiérrez in El Norte
Enrique Xuncax: David Villalpando
Rosa Xuncax: Zaide Silvia Gutiérrez
Arturo Xuncax: Ernesto Gómez Cruz
Lupe Xuncax: Alicia del Lago
Nacha: Lupe Ontiveros
Monte Bravo: Trinidad Silva
Jorge: Enrique Castillo
Carlos: Tony Plana
Alice Harper: Diane Cary
Jaime: Mike Gomez
Raimundo: Abel Franco

Director: Gregory Nava
Screenplay: Gregory Nava, Anna Thomas
Cinematography: James Glennon
Art direction: David Wasco
Film editing: Betsy Blankett Milicevic

Thirty-five years have passed since the release of El Norte, and the problems it depicts seem as intractable as ever, adding the poignancy of ongoing history to the film's bleak ending. As a document of the tragedy wrought by colonialism and the muddle of U.S. immigration policy, Gregory Nava's film is an essential one. Regarded as a work of narrative filmmaking, it has some deep flaws, particularly in the resort to overly "cinematic" devices like suspense. The intercutting between the plane departing for Chicago and Rosa's hospital room feels like textbook filmmaking, making the audience hold its breath to find out whether Enrique will really abandon his sister in hope of getting a green card. We don't need movie suspense fakeouts at this painful moment. But Nava does so much else right in the rest of the film, including the staging of the harrowing border crossing, as well as allowing humor to share screen time with pathos, that it's hard to criticize his lapses. If sincerity were everything, El Norte could be hailed as a masterpiece.

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