Latino Images in Film – A consolidated post
I meant to keep up with this thread in order to parallel TCM’s programming, but schoolwork and laziness has gotten in the way. Instead of separate posts about the Latino films I’ve been watching for class, I thought it would be more expedient to write one post in order to get caught up.
Camila (Argentina, 1984)
Maria Luisa Bemberg immortalizes the story of Argentina’s doomed lovers, Camila O’Gorman (Susú Pecoraro) and Ladislao Gutierrez (Imanol Arias) in her 1984 production of Camila. The film is based on the true story of Camila, a beautiful young socialite, and Ladialao, a Jesuit priest assigned to a parish in Buenos Aires. Camila and Ladislau (who is also her confessor) fall in love and resolve to run away together, inciting a furious manhunt until they are discovered and arrested several months later. Camila follows the historical incident very closely, but it seems that Bemberg is more interested in weaving an interesting story than in making an overt political statement; the fury of the Rosas regime is only depicted a handful of times in contrast with the sweeping narrative of Camila and Ladislao’s love.
The tone of the film acknowledges the heavy hand of political oppression in everyday life, but this does not suffocate the narrative. It is for this reason that I would argue for Bemberg’s preoccupation with relating an intriguing story rather than creating a politically cautionary tale. The final scene in which Ladialao and Camila are executed is particularly effective. The firing squad efficiently carries out the order to extinguish Ladislao’s life, but hesistates several times before taking Camila’s. A handful of the officers even cross themselves (probably asking God for forgiveness) before firing upon her. The reluctance of the guards to assassinate Camila reflects the horror and indignation felt by the Argentinian people at the time of this event in 1848.
Miss Mary (Argentina, 1986)
Miss Mary is another film written and directed by Bemberg, this time concerning a wealthy landowning family in 1930s Argentina. The bulk of the action takes place before the Peronist revolution of 1945, but the story is propelled by the inevitability of this change in government. Miss Mary stars one of my favorite actresses, Julie Christie, as the title character, a prim governess from Great Britain who arrives in Argentina under the employ of this family in order to teach the two daughters all the things that women “should be taught.” It seems that Bemberg likes to use her films as commentaries on the social constrictions of patriarchy, and this one is no exception. Alfredo (Eduardo Pavlovsky), the family patriarch, rules his family with an iron hand while conducting brazen affairs (most obviously with his sister-in-law) in plain view of his wife, Mecha (Nacha Guevara). The women of the family regress into madness (I assume) because of the sexual repression that constricts them, as well as the suffocating system of behavioral double-standards.
Not even my love for Julie Christie could do much to redeem this film in my opinion. The dialogue was halting, which makes me wonder if Bember was just unused to directing in English rather than her native Spanish. The direction was wooden, with the actors rarely exhibiting any semblance of emotion beyond the sort of stock reactions that the scene may have required.
For more about Maria Luisa Bemberg, The Untold Story is an excellent look at her films and private life, including a welath of information gleaned from interviews with the director herself.
Memorias del subdesarrollo (Cuba, 1968)
Memorias del subdesarrollo is a classic, complicated story that follows the life of a middle-aged writer, Sergio (Sergio Corrieri), as he grapples with the meaning of the recent communist revolution in Cuba. Memorias is clearly influenced by some of the techniques and attitudes of the French New Wave and the films of Federico Fellini (I am particularly reminded of Marcello Mastroianni’s Guideo in 8 1/2). Havana is comparable to the swinging urban centers of cinema; it is portrayed as a young city, one that is still in the “inconstant” stages of adolescence. Sergio’s inability to maintain a stable sexual relationship is perhaps one outgrowth of Havana’s environment. His relationship with Elena (Daisy Granados) is the manifestation of his aimless pursuit of pleasure and his inability to find some measure of constancy in his life.
Sergio is a passive player within revolutionary Cuba – he does not initiate substantial change in his life, beyond the fleeting dalliances he has with various women. He lets Laura (his ex-wife), Pablo (a friendly professional rival, played by Omar Valdés), and his family leave while he stays behind in Havana, unsure of what he wants to do with his life. It is clear that Sergio has some measure of attachment to his country, just as the revolutionary writers (Castro, Guevara, Yglesias, etc.) expound upon in their prose. His most constant relationship is the one he shares with his country – he faithfully refuses to leave her shores for the United States, even though he is a lukewarm revolutionary at best. The revolution is placed in a secondary role throughout the film – we see its effects on the behavior of those around Sergio, but not so much on Sergio himself. He is aware of the change in Cuba, but he seems to roll with the punches and adapts himself to her as she evolves into the Communist nation that remains in power to the present day.
This film really deserves its own post, and a much more in-depth analysis and commentary, so perhaps I will return to it sometime in the future. For now, you can watch the complete film here, courtesy of Google Video: