Wednesday, February 25, 2009

que viva mexico

This movie was weird and random and I didn’t understand it. I didn’t understand the general statement or the purpose of it. I thought it was really artistic...the photography was amazing at the beginning of the movie when they compared people in the present with the sculptures of people from the past the lighting and angles were beautiful...there was one where they showed the slant of the pyramid and it filled up most of the shot. In the rest of it they showed a face...In the end, it’s not that it wasn’t as artistic, but it seemed like they put a lot of effort into the first part and then in the end they showed really cheesy parts (like when the woman got shot and then she did the worst death that I’ve ever seen acted out and then the music goes from a solo timpani to a really loud gong and then you see her hat rolling down the hill...i couldn’t believe how cheesy that part was, especially with the combination of the death and the gong) i guess my point is that the movie’s quality isn’t consistent.
Also, the music was inconsistent both by itself and with its relationship with the rest of the movie. The movie reminded me of Batalla en el Cielo in that it focused a lot on the artistic and sound. Like he said, it’s about expression, not communication. That’s what this felt like too even though it’s probably not meant to. I really loved the piece in the opening scene (the one that re-occurred twice later in different variations)...the piece used Mexican instrumentation, but had Russian influence (chromatic harmonies, humming, etc.), so it seemed like the composer was Russian and tried to interpret Mexican music but still have a European identity so that it could reach out to Europeans. It wasn’t until a scene in the middle (I think it was after the weird pilgrimage) where they finally played pure Mexican music...the one where people are dancing in the town...and then later at the bull fight, they also played traditional music, but I think it could have been Spanish instead of Mexican...I don’t know. Also, when they were in that weird house thing, and there’s music going on, but then the camera shows a picture of that General guy (I forget who he was) and they put in a random dramatic musical statement with a kind of darker instrumentation to kind of say “watch out, he’s bad.” And then earlier, they were in that house and the music was playing and then all of a sudden on top of it there were weird random drones. So weird.
But the other part of the whole music thing is that other than the bull fight, and the part where the girls are singing in the paradise-type place with the monkeys it didn’t seem to fit seemed like the composer wrote a bunch of music and then placed it anywhere. Like I kind of said before, I noticed the music more because the movie was mostly sound and images.
The movie also reminded me of the movie Soy Cuba. It is also Russian, and it exaggerates the Cuban point of view of the relationship between Cuba and the USA...if i understood this movie more, I would probably be able to see more examples of how Russia is exaggerating/its interpretation-other than the music. By the time the movie was half way through, I was bored because I didn’t know what to think.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Batalla en el Cielo Blog

This blog is over 800 words, I hope that’s ok, I had a lot to say.

Tonight was the second time that I watched this movie, and I’m glad I watched it twice. The first time was this weekend, and it was spent basically trying to take in all of the information that the movie was spitting out. Maybe I shouldn’t say ‘spitting out’ because if it was true, then I wouldn’t feel this lost. Maybe I’m over thinking it, maybe not, but I have no idea, and it’s driving me crazy...I haven’t said what I’m talking about yet, so here it is: I’m a very visual person, and I find it hard to speak out in class discussions because when I watch a movie, the things that are running through my head are the relationships between the film score, the photography, and the characters (surprise!’s probably because I have always wanted to be a film score composer and when I graduate from UBC in May, I’m going into photography, while a lot of other people are thinking about the things that we actually discuss in class, basically everything else other than what I automatically think about, and no matter how hard I try, it’s really hard for me most of the time to think the way that others think like...after I’m done with UBC, it won’t matter how I think, because I won’t be graded on it, and I’m going to go on into an artistic field ... but here’s the point:

If you add up the time it takes to run through the dialogue in this movie, it would probably be about 30 minutes or less. The rest of the 100 minutes is either credits or photography ... it should be a movie that I can relate to perfectly but it seems like Reygadas is saying so much in all of the pauses and the photography, but there’s so much, I’m going to have to watch the movie over and over again to understand why exactly he put pauses in (some of the pauses were long enough to be like an actual photograph with a really great composition that I would put on my wall – that said, even though the beginning scene was really artistic with the choice of music and the way that the camera descended and gradually showed what was happening, and from a photographer’s point of view, and interesting composition, I wouldn’t want that anywhere near my wall...same story with the still shots after Marcos and Ana have sex and they’re just lying there...great composition and lighting, but no thanks – I think that whoever was behind the camera or in charge of the photography was a genius.

Maybe it’s all easier that I think. Maybe I’m just excited that we’re finally watching an extremely visual movie and it’s way more simple than I think...but most likely not. I’ll have to wait what people think about it on Thursday.

Even though I’ll have to watch the movie again to have a full understand of the symbolism in the photography, I noticed that whoever was behind the camera (well Reygadas was probably in charge of this) really played with the sense of ordering and time. For example, in the first scene, they could have showed what Ana was doing first before they showed Marcos’ face (reaction), but they wanted to show his reaction first before they showed what he was reacting to. Then later, like I said in class, in the metro, they showed Marcos and his wife first before they revealed where they were and what they were doing there. All you could see were their heads and you could hear the annoying beeping, but you didn’t know where it was coming from (this is similar to the scene in the country where you can hear the hammering but you have no idea what it is until after Marcos and their wife have a conversation). I figured that they didn’t show that they were selling stuff in a hallway somewhere until later, because they wanted the conversation to happen first, with very few distractions to the viewer because it was a follow up of the previous scene when Marcos answers his phone and gets the news from his wife. But in the country scene, there’s no reason why they have to show the source of the hammering at the end, because it isn’t really following anything...I guess it’s similar to the opening scene in that way.

Last thing for now because I’ve written over 700 words...I noticed that there was a sense of going from simple to complex in the metro scene...It’s like they were trying to create layers: first there’s minimal information, just a conversation and beeping, then gradually more information is provided: people ask questions about what they’re selling, and then we see what they’re selling, and then we see the people in that hallway thing, and then finally loads of people walk past them. I wonder if this technique is portrayed this much anywhere else. Maybe that’s what they were trying to do with the first scene, and the country scene, but in less drastic layers. I have to watch the movie again.

Friday, February 6, 2009

General Question/Statement

I have a general question/statement:

I don't understand why different aspects of Latin American culture are so contrasting. So many of the movies and novels have such twisted plots that include prostitution, drugs, homosexuality, murder, etc....and they not only have just one of those things, it's often a bunch of them combined...Like in El Callejón de Los Milagros and other movies that we've watched so
far and novels, like by Isabel Allende for example...We had to read Eva Luna a few years ago in a "What is Bad Literature?" class, it's the only book that I've read by her, and it's really strange and kind of all over the place. I remember thinking "there's no way that all of that drama could possibly happen to a single person." A new character is introduced in almost every chapter and they have really bizarre stories.

I was born in Vancouver, but my dad's Cuban, and almost everybody in my family is a musician, so I've been around a lot of Cuban music and big family dinners where everybody talks at the same time and the mood is generally really happy most of the time. Just listen to merengue, and salsa and cumbia and banda, it's supposed to be really happy. I have Cuban music where they sing about coffee and fire and there`s happy music in the background. It's so contrasting from all of the drama and negativity in the plots of movies and novels. My dad was considering majoring in Spanish in university but he told me that he chose not to because he didn't want to read depressing literature. My mom was in a spanish book club awhile ago where she would basically do what we do in class, but with novels and with her friends...her friends would pick out the books, and she would have to go buy them and she told me that all of them were depressing and filled with drugs and prostitution. All of her friends are from Chile and Argentina, and yes they have problems, but so does every other person that I know...I don`t understand why they kept choosing depressing literature. I've never been to Latin America other than to Mexico, so I don't really know what it's like I guess, and from experience, a lot of people who I met were either like people here (happy when good things happen and down when bad things happen) or really positive and welcoming . My mom`s friends are generally pretty outgoing whenever I see them.

Also, people from here 'escape' to Mexico and other areas to take in the sun, and drink margaritas (and also that they have the Americanized version of a taco and of nachos here at dinner parties and it's supposed to be like one of the 'fun' foods like hot dogs and the Americanized version of pizza) and get away from all the drama in their lives...but the literature is depressing! Do Latin Americans need to escape from their happy lives and watch twisted entertainment? Or do they agree that it's depressing and try to stick to things like Cantinflas and Betty La Fea? Or does happy Latin American literature and cinema exist and I just need to be introduced to more of it?

What's with all of the contrast and exaggeration between Latin American culture, various forms of entertainment and reality? It's something that I'll have to think more about.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

El Callejón De Los Milagros

We all know that the movie was divided into three sections, each one featuring a character. In this blog I want to point out that each of these characters ended up doing something different than what they originally set out for in the beginning. In the beginning of the first section, Rutilio acts like he’s homophobic by getting mad at Chava and Abel for hanging out too much (people might think they were gay), and then he finds a boyfriend and almost ends his relationship with his son, because his son is partly worried about his father’s and his own appearance and almost kills his father’s new boyfriend and has to run away to the US. At first Rutilio is trying to look out for his son, even though his criticism towards him makes him look cruel, and then he ends up losing him for awhile because of their argument.

In the second section, it really never seemed to me that Alma loved Abel as much as he loved her, but she promised him that she would wait for him and she didn’t. She started out as a clean virgin who was searching for a future, but when Abel moved away, she gave up on him almost right away and decided that her future would be prostitution, even though she ran away from it at first.

Susanita was a lonely landlord who was desperate enough for a family to give up rent money in order to have her cards read, but she ended up with a thief, who she got new teeth for (not a cheap procedure). She spent all of her money for men and to get men...she didn’t make Chava pay her back...and then because she realized that Guicho was stealing from her, she tried to end her dream of a family by finally putting herself first and yelling at him for it.

As an audience member, rather than a student who would be analysing it later, I found this movie kind of disturbing because I was rooting for the first two romances to work out (the first one is kind of questionable depending on your opinion, but whatever makes them happy is ok with me) and the first boyfriend almost got killed and with the second romance Alma became a prostitute and Abel got killed. With the third romance, I knew the guy was going to keep stealing from her, so I didn’t care that he got busted in the end. I’m not completely sure how the first two sections significantly blend into the third section, but it seems that if Chava and Rutilio hadn’t gotten into a fight, then Abel wouldn’t have moved away, and then Alma wouldn’t have become a prostitute...but then what would have happened with Susanita? Would she have gone after Chava? I’m not sure what happened there with them except that Chava gave her hope for a new man by kissing her. I guess now that I’ve finished typing this, I don’t think that the movie’s disturbing, but the characters are really pathetic. Only Abel really stands up for what he believes in and doesn’t give up until he’s dead.