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Called by the Mexican President himself, and in spite of a heart condition, young teacher Rosaura Salazar travels to the deserted town of Rio Escondido to accomplish the mission of bringing education to the poorest people. Being there, Salazar has to fight Regino Sandoval the evil landlord of the town. He has transformed the town into his own property, imposing his will and spreading death everywhere. Written by
Maximiliano Maza <firstname.lastname@example.org>
As a teenager I had already heard about Emilio Fernandez and Gabriel Figueroa, that together created the masterpieces of the Mexican cinema. They were legend. But for a long time seeing their films remained wishful thinking . Only later when it became possible to buy films through the internet that I decided to buy one of Emilio Fernandez's films. My informations were that his most creative period run, more or less, from 1943 to 1950 and "Rio Escondido" was one of his important films and was being offered for a cheap price. So I bought it and I had great expectations.
I was disappointed! Why? There are so many good things to say about the film! The cinematography is gorgeous, like other reviews already pointed out - the use of the arid landscape, the sky and clouds filling the screen. People and landscape, faces of peasants in close-up, scenes of crowds in grief and anger - the individual, the collective and nature, the silent witness. Somehow it feels like a Rivera's painting transposed into a cosmic frame.
The plot is also interesting: a teacher, Rosaura (Maria Felix) is called by the president. He gives her a mission - to go to a small village called Rio Escondido and teach the children the alphabet, history etc and prepare them to be the citizens of a new Mexico. When after a long travel she arrives in Rio Escondido she will have to fight many obstacles, and the principal one is the big landowner that practically owns the town. There will be a titanic fight with an ending worthy of Greek drama.
This was a time when the heroic years of the Mexican Revolution were still fresh in the minds of the Mexican people. The political party in power was officially a revolutionary one and, in fact, that was its name: Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) and idealism, in spite of all, was still present in many people outside and inside the government. This film was clearly conceived as a propaganda piece, and there lies the rub. A propaganda film (and I mean propaganda not in a derogatory way) can be excellent ("Ivan, the Terrible" can vouch for that) as long as it is emotionally sincere and artistically accomplished. Well, I can say that "Rio Escondido" succeeded in these two levels.
But I think that "Rio Escondido" failed in its portrayal of the teacher Rosaura, the character around whom all the action revolves. She is portrayed as a saint (one could call her Saint Rosaura) who is invested by God, I mean the President of Mexico (who is not shown in the film - we can only see his shadow, or his grizzled head seen from the back of the chair) - his solemn voice tells Saint Rosaura what her mission will be: To Fight Ignorance and Evil. Saint Rosaura, bathed in tears of emotion, leaves for Rio Escondido to fulfill her mission. She is portrayed in such a saintly way that she loses her human traits - no traces of humor or human insecurity. When she speaks she seems to be delivering political speeches. And the worst of it is that it is not even funny. She's so virtuous that she becomes a bore. You need to have flesh & blood characters with whom you can, in some way, identify, someone who is human, who has made mistakes (even Petro Infante himself in "Nosotros los pobres" is a womanizer and has his failures), like the rest of us poor sinners. But Rosaura Salazar is a perfect human being and the film loses much of its punch as a result.
"Rio Escondido" is a film to see just for its extraordinary visual beauty. If you want to see it, turn off the sound and put some music of your choice on. I give seven stars because of the visual treat.
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