Sentimental Memoir Assembled Quite As Well As Might Have Been Expected.
This Mexican-produced feature film, confined in its setting to the largely mountainous State of Durango in Mexico, portrays the adventures of a two man coalition, Francisco (José Carlos Ruiz) and his young assistant Guillermo (Ignacio Guadalupe) who, in an artless but brave venture, endeavour to construct a motion picture theatre in a rural community, San Miguel de Cruces, thereby mirroring incidents from within the early life of the work's director, Juan Antonio De La Riva, at the helm here for his initial feature effort. To earn money for their prospective theatre, the pair travel to many small villages, exhibiting Mexican classical films, thus pleasing local populations who enjoy no other form of entertainment and, as their association becomes more intimate, Francisco reveals that his father was also an itinerant exhibitor of films throughout the same region, their activity clearly becoming a form of homage to his parent with clips from exhibited pictures clearly alluding to Francisco's own pilgrimage. The most interesting segments of the film will be those that demonstrate the skills required by the two men as they busy themselves with setting up and showing the motion pictures, a craft that Francisco had learned from his father (De La Riva was literally born in a projection room). As the two progress through the humble communities in the mountainous Sierra de Durango, Guillermo becomes romantically involved with a young woman from one of the villages, Josefina (Josefina González), who enthusiastically becomes an adherent of the men as they must face several crises that test their potential as future cinematic entrepreneurs. Shot in 35mm., the piece was a favourite with film festival enthusiasts in Spain and much of Latin America, winning the honour as Best Film at the former nation's San Sebastian Festival. After successfully directing several short works, De La Riva enjoyed, following this initial feature's showings, heightened interest in his output with both critics and audiences. His father's history supplied the storyline and dialogue here, while the creative compositions of cinematographer Leoncio "Cuco" Villarias and music from Antonio Avitia are invaluable in accentuating the plot line. In sum, this is quite a simple narrative, that being both the film's principal strength, and weakness as well. The production's milieu will be of some interest to viewers who might not be familiar with the State of Durango, but the storyline is only seldom charged with any sort of character development that might absorb an attentive audience. When the two principals encounter problem situations, director/writer De La Riva is hard pressed to formulate a stopping point for this overly discursive affair. Released by Desert Mountain Media as a full-screen DVD, the package includes biographies, and available English subtitles for this Spanish language piece that are quite accurate. Both visual and sound quality are excellent.
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