Without much in the way of new releases available for review, it seems a good time to draw attention to the Reader’s weekly Festivals column, which highlights some of our city’s one-shot screenings and/or more unusual venues.
First up: no advance screeners were issued for Francis Ford Coppola’s 139-minute director’s cut of The Cotton Club. (That’s 20 minutes longer than the original 1984 cut that the studio pressured Coppola to approve.) Of late, the director appears to be devoting his time to potchkying with the classics; this Cotton Club redux comes just months after Apocalypse Now was given yet another facelift. You’ll have a week to see it, starting Friday at Landmark’s Ken Cinema.
On to the main event: my original goal was to review three of the nine films playing the Hola Mexico Film Festival Tour at the Digital Gym from October 11–17. Alas, of the 3 screeners offered, one arrived without American subtitles at the bottom of the picture. So I jumped the gun a bit by making my third entry a review of I’m Leaving Now, an outstanding documentary that doesn’t open until the 25th. For showtimes, visit https://digitalgym.org/.
The Good Girls (Las Niñas Bien)
The 1982 Mexican debt crisis, as seen through the eyes of the women behind the men in manufacturing, that is, the ones with the most to lose. They’re the type of pampered souls who demand their octopus be hammer tender and ask the waiter to bring fresh water because the ice isn’t cold enough. Standing in a round dressing room, admiring herself before an open-wide accordion bank of mirrors, Sofia (Ilse Salas) looks every inch a movie star — as opposed to a well-kept socialite shunted to the sidelines, awaiting modernity, as one of the niñas puts it, while the menfolk sort things out. If ever a film could have profited from walking the fine line between satire and social commentary, it’s this, but there’s not so much as one smile to be cracked throughout the somber course of events. Rather than set Sofia apart from the orderly and colorful exterior, writer-director Alejandra Márquez Abella presents a character incapable of being humbled. The production and performances are all first-rate, but without an edge, this chugs along in a manner befitting a dead-serious, albeit it handsomely pointless, episode of The Real Housewives of Mexico’s Upper-Class.
Eight Out of Ten (Ocho de Cada Diez)
According to the opening crawl, the murder rate during Enrique Peña Nieto’s six-year stretch as Mexico’s President was such that in the time it takes to watch the movie, six people would have died. The set-up continues to tempt: we observe from a distance as Aurelio’s (Noé Hernández) son is shot, gangland-style, in Holy Trinity Plaza. (The cops classify it as a drug deal gone bad, but Dad swears his son wasn’t pushing.) Aurelio goes by the nickname “Faces.” That’s rich, considering the only times his glum demeanor brightens are a brief moment spent in the presence of his granddaughter and when he’s high on crack. We are no clearer as to why Aurelio’s wife exiled her husband than we are why it took so long for the textile worker to return to the crime scene for eyewitness accounts. A father grieving the loss of a son and the prostitute next door (Daniela Schmidt) looking for her daughter make for a compelling couple — until he becomes her best customer. To help make his point — and clumsily foreshadow the inevitably violent outcome — writer-director Sergio Umansky Brener intersperses surveillance footage of at least a half-dozen explicit shootings. And not since Dragnet has a cop delivered a sterner dressing-down than the one Aurelio receives.
I’m Leaving Now (Ya Ma Voy)
Felipe is a man who has spent his life migrating, “Like the doves, like the seagulls.” But his isn’t a stereotypical tale of emigrating to a land where the streets are paved with gold. The 8-month-old son he left behind will soon turn 16, and Felipe has worked hard to make his way from New York back home to Mexico. That includes several side jobs — most notably cleaning the schvitz in a Jewish synagogue — in addition to making the daily rounds of dumpsters in search of recyclable gold. All this to send money home to a family that may have outlived his usefulness. (“It’s for you that I’m so far away,” is his way of justifying his absence.) But what if the tarot reader is correct and Felipe’s family has no use for him outside of the monthly checks? What if his son sees dad’s name on the caller ID and refuses to pick up? Still, the viewer can watch a man push a cart or stack bottles for only so long, and it’s when Felipe allows directors Lindsey Cordero and Armando Croda access to his love life that the film moves in a fresh (and frank) direction. Because it’s then that Felipe’s love for and devotion toward his wife and children is put to the test, as he fans the flame of romance with a neighborhood senorita.