Period film gorgeously photographed with deeply etched characters and conflicts, set within a larger context of socio-political developments in pre-revolutionary Mexico, in 1903, the 19th year of the repressive regime of Porfirio Diaz, who had through colossal will and brutal force transformed the economy, built a national railroad system, and suppressed the civil chaos that had ruined Mexico for decades. Diaz accomplished these things at the terrible cost of slaughtering his opponents, making Mexico financially more dependent upon U.S. capital, and engendering even greater poverty in a land already suffering from gross imbalance in the distribution of wealth.
Vuelta (turn) refers here to visits to the local pulqueria to down a few pints of the peasants' drink, pulque, and trade stories. Vuelta also means 'revolution' (e.g., the revolutions of an electric fan); a pun may be intended here, a reference to the fact that conditions and events in this film foreshadow the Mexican Revolution that would begin 7 years later.
The principal story told here concerns three soldiers and two women, both prostitutes. We come to know each quite well, through good scripting, good acting and portrait-like camera-work that captures each character at close range throughout the movie. The pivotal character is Sargento Collazo (Damián Alcázar). He and his men come to a town where he will participate as godfather in the baptism of Melba's (Vanessa Bauche) infant. She is a fierce, self-possessed woman, one of the prostitutes, a long time friend and probable lover of Collazo's.
Collazo's two aides are the sneezy Cabo Aboytes (Jorge Zárate), a 'yes man' gofer for Collazo, and a new recruit, José Isabel (José Maria Yazpik), who is Aboytes' polar opposite. José is arrogant, insubordinate, and a braggart, boasting of his lover's prowess, enhanced by his liberal use of weed. The other prostitute is Brigida (Giovanna Zacarias). Where Melba is generous, Brigida is selfish; where Melba has some sense of higher purpose in life, Brigida seems content to live from moment to moment in an inebriated semi-stupor.
We experience other tavern tales as flashbacks, involving other colorful, often amusing characters. As in the stories of Garcia Marquez or Carlos Fuentes, the boundary between the living and the dead here is a porous one. A dead man from one of the tales welcomes José after his execution by firing squad, and later the pair return to the present to mix it up with the living.
The writer-director, Mr. Cazals, present for this screening, made helpful interpretive remarks, and I was also able to have a brief conversation with him one-on-one. Cazals makes demands upon his audiences. He expects the viewer to be equipped with an understanding of the historo-political context of the times, and the 'rules of the game' for civil and military conduct during the Porfiriana. He assumes that you already know that in Mexico in that time, having enough food to stave off starvation was far more important than advancing some political ideology.
The main story oozes with Brechtian allegorical riffs. The baptized infant's name is Doctrino, an allusion to the fact that in 1903 political awareness was barely nascent, just dawning among the peasantry, who knew only that their lives were miserable. Aboytes stands for the sort of underclass type that Porfirio Diaz would like: unthinking, loyal, reflexively obedient to the regime. José is something else: brimming with youthful insouciance, full of himself, this uppity fellow is as indifferent to the suffering around him as he is to authority. His very nature makes him subversive to everybody, an enemy of both the state and the peasantry. Small wonder that Collazo, a richly complex fellow who at once represents Diaz's insistence on law and order and, at the same time, compassion for the poor, finds a way to exterminate José.
Collazo and Melba are far richer, more convoluted characters than the others and perhaps embody Cazals's sense of the contradictory qualities that made up successful Mexican revolutionaries: toughness and compassion; willingness to ruthlessly attack opponents while tenderly safeguarding loved ones and compatriots; a bent toward generously supporting the poor and murderously plundering the privileged.
Melba, like Collazo, is capable of robbing and killing a bourgeois citizen. Melba's feelings toward Collazo are divided. Standing for the soul of the peasants, the interests of the motherland, she chooses this strong, proud man to be godfather to Doctrino. She resents his predatory overtures, his Porfirianistic demands for her sexual favors, yet she is quite willing to share her charms if he will simply ask in a civil manner, she says. She is appealing to the softer and more democratic side of this complicated man.
Brigida embodies the passivity of those peasants who respond to their misery not by attempting to change conditions but by escaping from their pain, numbing it with alcohol, drugs and other addictive habits. The most significant conundrum is José's unrepentant stance. Cazals sets up all the conditions one would expect for this man to find redemption for his hubris, even bringing José back from the grave for a clear shot at putting things right. No way, José.
I asked Mr. Cazals about this failure of redemption. "You see," he said, "nothing is important, not even redemption, when a man is starving. The only thing that matters then is food." I grasp his point, but this was not self evident watching the movie. Of course there may have been clues to this interpretation in the dialogue that I missed because I don't know Spanish.
This is a lyrical, visually grand, but highly challenging film. Variety's Eddie Cockrell calls the film "a well made but nearly impenetrable drama." Well, it's true that you do need to know your stuff about Mexican history, and few Americans qualify. I do read Mexican history. Mr. Cazals' last comment to me was that the story in this film is entirely relevant to conditions in Mexico today, where 40% of the population continue to live in severe poverty.
Las vueltas del citrillo
Drama / Fantasy
Las vueltas del citrillo
Drama / Fantasy
Mexico, the beginning of the 20th century; in the times of the Porfirio Díaz dictatorship, the film does not surrender to the temptation of a meticulous historical chronicle. Rather, the film's scope is deliberately narrow; instead of a grandiose, revolutionary epic, it remains closer to a chamber piece, a sort of grotesque, colloquially exuberant and highly cinematic portrayal of decadence.
Uploaded By: FREEMAN