April 21, 2008 at 3:30 am Leave a comment

Latino movies worth a watch.

Gaby Chabolla / Adelante
Volume II, Issue 2 (March 2008)

Kilómetro 31

Released in early 2007, Kilómetro 31, or Km 31, is a zombie effort in film horror – “zombie” because the genre was dead for so long in Mexican cinema. Forget the overly-acted screams of yore; special effects, myth and more soap opera-ness come together in this well-budgeted horror film.

Mysterious occurrences seem to take place at the 31st kilometer section of a highway. The story begins when Catalina, through a special connection to her twin sister, Agata, realizes something is wrong. Her premonition proves true. Catalina, along with a friend named Omar, hurry to the site and find Agata unconscious.

From here on, Catalina tries to shed light upon the strange circumstances under which her sister had the accident. What is this about a little boy in the middle of the night on a lonely highway? What is the bad cop doing trying to frustrate our protagonist’s attempts to get to the core of it all? And most bedazzling of all, what has this mythical ghost from the gutters of the city to do with the two sisters?

Mexico is rich in mythology, which is reflected in this specific genre. Decades-old movies such as Hasta el Viento Tiene Miedo (1968) and El Libro de Piedra (1969) are cult examples of quality horror movies, laced in some form or other with popular legends. But then again, what makes Mexico’s films any different from other horror movies? The budget, perhaps?

Morirse en Domingo

A dark comedy, Morirse en Domingo contains among its visuals some seriously dark greens and yellows. The plot revolves around Carlos, on whose young shoulders the responsibility of overseeing the funerary details of his uncle has fallen. Among the grief, his ineptitude and the fact that it’s a Sunday, the dead uncle loses his way and ends up in a body trafficking network.

Incredulously aware of the mistake he made when taking the body’s end for granted, Carlos finds himself in the middle of a game of pulling levers and nightly trickery. Under his father’s strict expectations, he tries to confront the fraudulent cremations man, Joaquin, with whom he’s become tangled up with. Along the way, Carlos falls in love with Ana, Joaquin’s brooding daughter.

After some reflections on death, the plot burns down to Ana’s tricky relationships with her father and with Carlos. The body winds up well traveled: it visits a university, a hotel room, a refrigerator, a trash can and the consequential dumpster.

This movie is an especially rich fountain of Mexican folk wisdom. The dark elements of the movie – the unearthly ability of the dead to vote and to receive a pension after life’s limit, are offset by the insight into the ridiculous disorder that rules in the streets under Mexican formality murky transactions in Aztec land.

Charm School (Niñas Mal)

An update on Mexican comedy, Charm School takes on the contrasting game: rebel adolescent girls vs. proper morals and appearances. A group of daughters from distraught mothers (and the aggravating antagonist), led by statue-throwing Adela, is enrolled into an academy for proper ladylike behavior. The problem here is that Adela’s prancing, setting things on fire and wearing improper garments, threatens the funding for her father’s candidacy. There comes a turning point in every daddy’s life when he has to say “Enough” to his little girl and then you call la doña.

It’s the disinteresting cast that’s interesting in this case: a sexy Wilma, a dreamy ipod girl, a sparse headed do-gooder and pretty wife Heidi. “I… want… to be the best wife ever for Kike,” is her bubbly leitmotiv.

Pearls of wisdom are dropped periodically by our most proper hostess, “Life is like an old disc, and the wheel runs the same road until it reaches a scratch in the way,” “There is nothing harder than changing the way you think when you’ve convinced yourself for years of a particular way of seeing things,” She gives an informative five-second discourse in monochromatics), and later on reveals a tattoo to our rebelette, adding, “It was the sixties, girl.” Naughty, naughty.

The comedy consists of the attempts of our hostess to domesticate this group of hopeless girls, all of who gang up on the evil insistence of Heidi to conquer appearances.

Like all good Mexican meetings, all the conflicts end with a party. Like all comedies, everyone gets their cake and eats it: the grouchy entrepreneur, the frustrated father, the unhappy daughter, the love deprived nerd and even Monsignor join in a dance to forget all ills.

A wacky detail is the resemblance of the closing credits to a soap opera.

Duck Season (Temporada de patos)

A quirky little find. Shot entirely in black -and -white, it narrates a home-alone afternoon of massive coke glasses, pizza, Halo, and brownies gone amiss.

Flama and Moko (“With a K”) set themselves in front of the screen along with a bowl of chips and soda, ready to indulge in a gaming afternoon in an empty apartment. The shooting goes along quite nicely, but things start bubbling when their next-door neighbor, an apron-clad girl, pops in to use the oven “for 15 minutes”. The youngster’s plan collapses when the electricity goes off; they stare at the ceiling, and she spits water.

With electricity coming back sometime later, they decide to call the pizza guy. Moko sets his chronometer after calling the guy. “Why do you set it? They always get here on time.” Ooh, foreshadowing.

To this follows an interesting scene. Ever tried to get into an eleventh floor apartment without using the elevator?

Dispute over the timing of the delivery adds another character to the story: the thirty-something pizza deliverer who, like the other three kids, is also fed up with how his life is going.

The pizza’s fate is to be decided through a gaming match, it is accorded. But alas! More electrical failures and non-sounding alarm clocks muddle things up yet again.

The movie has some funny moments, might be slow at times, but with level-headed expectations, results are quite enjoyable.

Related links: Km 31 (IMDb), Morirse en Domingo (IMDb), Charm School (IMDb), Duck Season (IMDb)

Entry filed under: March 2008 issue. Tags: , .


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