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The first to die in an epidemic of meningitis in Vera Cruz is a French tourist. His wife Nellie, detached and indifferent, feels little grief and realizes that her coldness is her own doom. Over the next two days, she is attracted to George, a local drunk who does odd jobs for brothels and dances grotesquely for tourists in exchange for drinks. George has his own dark secret, a tragedy he caused that leaves him with a death wish. In assisting the local doctor to cope with the epidemic, these two emotional cripples enable each other to rediscover reasons to live and to love. Written by
One of the greatest films I've ever seen, this movie took me completely by surprise, considering I'd never heard of it, and the videotape cover was very cheesy. Set in a small Mexican town, the main character is a drunk who is so intoxicated throughout the movie he can hardly walk. A plague of cerebral-spinal meningitis hits the town. This film has a startlingly raw edge to it, like nothing else I've seen from the 50s, but more like a Midnight Cowboy kind of down-and-out unflinching view of human situations. One of the first images is of the drunk carrying a pig's head through the streets of town. He delivers it to a whorehouse. The prostitute offers to pay him with sex, but he chooses to be paid in tequila. There's another scene of him cleaning up vomit, and a scene where the local doctor, the drunk, and a woman tourist take turns inoculating each other in the spine with a huge needle. This is not to say that the film is shocking or gross, but simply human and realistic. The photography is utterly pure and perfect. Nearly every composition is dynamic, with a strong perspective, background and foreground in play, half the shots have some kind of movement, dolly or pan, which is used concisely and never intrusively. Every set up is intelligent, resourceful and well executed. The acting is simply brilliant, the stars are believable, realistic and likeable. I don't know the story behind this production, or why it has slipped into obscurity, but it struck me as one of the GREAT films, comparable to something by Robert Bresson(who is one of my favorite directors) so, as you can guess, I highly recommend this. It's a ten.
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