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A ruthless, comical, fun-loving, romantic rebel general, General Jose Juan Reyes, preparing to make a stand against the Mexican-government army takes over a small Mexican town and imprisons the town leaders, including the father of fiery Maria Dolores Penafiel, who is among those citizens who take a stand against Reyes. Maria protests by slapping the face of Reyes, (the first of many times) and he is so enthralled by her spirit that he immediately declares she must become his wife. In response, she shows some more spirit, she sets off a firecracker under his horse. Reyes begins to soften and, with the aid of Father Sierra and Maria, who is about to marry her local suitor, he helps the town fight an influenza epidemic. He decides to retreat than stage a battle in the town against the advancing government troops. Maria is so stirred by the bugles of the retreating rebels, that she leaves her marriage ceremony and marches with Reyes and his ragged army across the desert into the sunset. ... Written by
Les Adams <email@example.com>
El Nace del Amor mixes romance and melodrama with historic and military drama set in a late 19th century Mexican town. The story centers on a few very strongly realized characters - Maria Dolores (Paulette Godard) Jose Juan (Pedro Armendariz), Father Sierra (Gilbert Roland) and Dr. Stanley (Walter Reed). Maria Dolores is a headstrong and lovely young upper middle class woman who is engaged to an American doctor (Reed) who has settled in the town. Father Sierra is a community-leading priest and Jose Juan is a revolutionary general who brings unsolicited agrarian reform to the town and falls in love with Maria Dolores.
Jose Juan (who is remarkably well-played by Armendariz) and Maria Dolores are the most dramatic and unpredictable characters of the lot. Father Sierra, who has known the General since they were both young, makes it clear that Jose Juan is a principled man, but his bloody revolution and generally aggressive and angry demeanor do not seem to sit well with this representation. Maria Dolores is intelligent, intuitive, passionate and virtuous, but also inexperienced and a bit naive. Although the revolutionary occupation of the town and the calamities that beset the place at the time comprise most of the threads of the nicely woven plot, the romance between Dr. Stanley, Maria and Jose Juan is the fundamental story in El Nace.
Goddard's performance is not one of her best, but she does an admirable job of playing a woman who was probably about half her age (Godard was 48 when the film was released).
Filmed in Mexico and shot in English with Spanish subtitles, veteran Mexican actor Emilio Fernandez's directing and cinematography are surprisingly superb. Each shot is very nicely composed and the camera usually makes up for occasional weaknesses in the acting and the script. There are a few problems with the editing which do not really detract from the value of the story. The few war scenes, though they do not approach the blood and guts realism of today's military adventures, are startlingly vivid and a bit scary.
Despite my praises, the film has quite a few tedious moments which are important from the perspective of character development, but which do not stand up to the test of time.
Interesting from a cultural and historical perspective, and as a well-made low budget early independent, El Nace del Amor is recommended for film buffs and students of cinematography. While it is hardly a classic, it is a good story well told.
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