Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Witchfinder General

Witchfinder General, 1968
Dir: Michael Reeves

The thing about any Vincent Price vehicle that I'm sure you've noticed is that if the ensemble around him is a bunch of cardboard cutouts than it just isn't going to work (think The House on Haunted Hill). But in this, the other actors, and especially Reeves' style, really helps with Price's hamminess, which is always evident ("I don't do accents."), but never overbearing.

Getting back to Reeves: if Robert Bresson were forced to direct a B-movie script about Matthew Hopkins, it might look like this.

Saturday, March 3, 2012


Drama/Mex, 2006
Dir: Gerardo Naranjo

Oh Meheeco. It's nice to know that your middle/upper-middle class late teens (or maybe earlier 20s; whateva) act just like us. Or do they? Where is the puro mejicano? Is Acapulco actually that Mexico? I think it is when its coming from the locals. I think I saw it sometimes here: futbol, cerveza, la playa, chicas, mariachi. That stuff is embedded in the film and works in it's favor. The soccer scene is as good as it gets. If you see this, I think you'll see it. I suppose it's just that this age group everywhere creates the drama; it comes with the territory.

Girls gunna be girls. Fernanda cares about Gonzalo, but plays him like a dummy. Chano's assualt-romance just brought back so many feelings! Yeah, he's a punk and a thief (literally, money and girls), but dangit if he's gonna get worked up about it ("I don't know. I guess I'd like to be different or something, but I sure ain't suffering over it.") Chano's a wild-man, and a manipulator. Very much in the Yuddy mold from Days of Being Wild (1990). You're not supposed to like or dislike him. He is what he is and is pretty up front about it. Does Fernanda fool herself into thinking otherwise, or does she not care? Her whole "I'm pissed at you" act at the beginning is just a game she thinks she should be playing with him.

Run away with me, girl. Let's book it out of "Crapapulco." Maybe go to Yankeekland.

And Fernanda, she was going to do it! But of course, she's just a pretty girl coward. And you know what, I take it back: she doesn't play Gonzalo, Chano plays her. The game gets flipped on her. Big-time. This dude stole from your family, and you're gonna go wanderlusting with him?! But, of course, she got caught (by two perspectives!), and homies don't let a homie's bitch play him like that. Fer, babe, maybe you feel bad or something, but it wasn't until you realized you'd been found out. That sure is a way to change your mind.

And what about Gonzalo? Is he just a yukka mejicano? For real, dude? She humps you after you confront her, and everything's OK? Of course, it might not be like that. Who knows what's really gonna go down. Particularly with Fernanda, who all we really know about her by the end of the film is that she is a flake, and she definitely doesn't know what's gonna happen. So Gonzo goes from being King Goalie Shit with his golden boys to a drunken mess, getting housed by Chano, crying all over himself. That's the thing about Gonzo, though: he doesn't have any shame, at least not for himself. He is a just really emotional guy, and that's what makes him admirable, to a degree.

But, of course, he does all the things you are supposed to do when your girl cheats on you. That's just who he is. First, he goes and rounds up a mariachi band and serenades Fernanda's window with Mexican love songs. It's such a freakin' cliche, but it's also one of my favorite scenes from the film. Gonzo's pain, right there, is one of the truest moments in the film. With his bros looking on, leaning against their car, sluggin' 40s. No shame, all emotion, so real. It makes you think about yourself and how you are always embarrassed about something. It's such a fucking hindrance. Gonzo's emotional jolt doesn't let him stop though, especially when it doesn't work. So what now: confrontation.

You sympathize with Gonzalo, but then he gets violent. Fernanda feels bad and looks wretched, but then says it's all his fault. Naranjo does a great job of not letting you pick a side in this (because that's not the point). Both of them feel like shit; both of them are shitty. A perfect couple? But surely not after this bullshit? And Fernanda decides the best way to get back to not feeling so shitty is to fuck Gonzalo on the beach. And he let's her.

The other "storyline" of the film really didn't hook me in as much, but it has a lot to do with what Naranjo is trying to say. Jaime is the older office worker who might (probably) be having an incestuous relationship with his daughter. He steals some money from his work and decides to head to Acapulco to kill himself (The suicide thing is just kinda played out if you ask me...). There he runs into Tigrillo, a young school girl who is trying to learn with her friends ("The Yahairas") the fine "dance" that local girls play with tourists on the beach for easy money/gifts. They become attached to each other for a night, and Tigrillo manages to liven up Jaime, even enough to stop him from killing himself during their "climax". You could say that by the end, the characters form a bond because they both want to get out: out of Acapulco, or out of a life. Naranjo compares them (they both steal money at some point in the movie) because they share similar longings. They just have different desires.

And this is how, as I see it, you are supposed to view the film. I've read some reviews for this, mostly on how this is "shallow and empty." I supposed if you looked at most teenage culture, you could say the same thing. But that only looks at the film on a superficial level. Our desires cause us pain, when in conflict with both our other desires and the desires of others. However, they are positive in the sense that despite the pain caused we continue to desire different things or people or places. We keep on moving on despite the pain this movement causes. People will always be people, and everyone has their own reasons. That's life: It goes on. The last scene on the beach proves it.