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Fernando de Fuentes
The Mexican Revolution is on its way when six brave peasants, known as "Los Leones de San Pablo", decide to join Pancho Villa's army and help end the suffering in their community by assisting in the struggle. After several battles and valiant heroics, the original group is eventually reduced to the leader Tiburcio Maya (Frausto) and young Becerrillo (Vallarino). When Becerrillo is infected by smallpox, Villa orders Tiburcio to kill him and burn the corpse. After reluctantly doing his duty, Tiburcio is ordered to leave the army, and returns home. Written by
Maximiliano Maza <firstname.lastname@example.org>
This is currently considered the best Mexican film of all time by a prestigious poll taken by the magazine SOMOS. The film deals primarily with the disenchantment that overcame the Mexican people after the Revolution, which was very risky at the time because the film was made less than 15 years after that war had ended, which meant that this was basically the first film that dealt directly with the questioning of the morality of the methods and ideals that were implemented during the Mexican revolution. The movie was a big financial flop when it came out, I guess nobody considered this entertainment, especially since the memories were still so fresh for so many Mexican families. This fact nearly ruined the director's (Fernando De Fuentes) career, if it wasn't for the release of 'Alla en el Rancho Grande', that same year which was a big financial success but ironically the complete opposite of this film (this being an astute critical vision of the Mexican revolution and the other being a quite commercially complacent vision of Mexican rural life).
Going into the details of the movie itself, it is basically the story of a group of brave countrymen who call themselves 'Los Leones de San Pablo' who join up with Pancho Villa's army. After surviving significant battles, the group is reduced to only two, with a quietly devastating final sequence. The film is filled with many small unforgettable sequences, and the mood that is permeated throughout is that of slow disillusionment and disenchantment of the reasons why these countrymen left their homes, friends and family to join a revolutionary movement based on ideals that were slowly corrupted and finally tore down by the methods of Villa. Both the performances (by the great Domingo Soler as Pancho Villa and Antonio Frausto as the leader of the Leones Tiburcio Maya), as well as De Fuente's focused direction throughout are standouts. The battle sequences and the quiet moments of camaraderie are particularly impressive.
It has to be said that there is yet to be a print of this film with restored sound and image quality, but it is still worthy of checking out. Try and rent or buy the version which presents an alternate ending, which is more violent and cruel than the one they left (which is actually more appropriate). If you enjoyed this film, I would recommend 'El Compadre Mendoza', another De Fuentes film that also deals with the corruptibility of the individual in the midst of the Mexican Revolution. For more of De Fuentes, check out 'Alla en el Rancho Grande' and 'Doña Barbara' (with the incomparable Maria Felix), for more of Domingo Soler, check out 'La Barraca' (with arguably his best performance) and 'La Mujer del Puerto'.
A solid 10 out of 10.
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