Based on the Greek tragedy MEDEA, this is a present day Mexican version, set in the seediest possible milieu of Mexico City. A woman abandoned by her husband, is thrown out of her apartment... See full summary »
Based on the Greek tragedy MEDEA, this is a present day Mexican version, set in the seediest possible milieu of Mexico City. A woman abandoned by her husband, is thrown out of her apartment by her landlord - who is also her husband's new father-in-law. She is also about to lose custody of her two children to her husband, a low-life, second-rate boxer and opportunist. With the help of her godmother, she plans to take revenge on her husband. Written by
Ripstein is México's most respected filmmaker. He belongs to the 1970's generation responsible for the so-called "new Mexican cinema", which produced some great works, as Paul Leduc's "Reed: México insurgente" and Felipe Cazals' "Canoa". Ripstein was one of the first to gain recognition with his very good B&W film, "Tiempo de morir" (1965), written directly for the screen by Gabriel García Márquez, with dialogues by Carlos Fuentes. It has rained a lot between this movie and his 1999 screen adaptation of García Márquez' novel "El coronel no tiene quien le escriba". In the meantime, he married screenwriter Paz Alicia Garciadiego, and since their first collaboration, "El imperio de la fortuna" (1986, after Juan Rulfo's story "El gallo de oro"), Ripstein's cinematic world has become overblown, slow, morbid, grotesque and misanthropic. One cannot blame Garciadiego for this, but she surely has a lot to do with it. "Profundo carmesí" (1996), their remake of the story told in "The Honeymoon Killers", is a good example of this couple's peculiar taste. In "La perdición de los hombres" and "Así es la vida" (both 2000), Ripstein once again enters the world of misery, though his characters are not precisely outcasts, as the fat nurse and her gigolo lover. This time he returns to his early free-style as he tells the stories of normal people, who choose weird solutions to their predicaments and whose dreams occupy on the screen the same space, an in the same tone and register, as their daily actions. If "La perdición de los hombres" is fine, things do not work that well with "Así es la vida", based on the myth of Medea as told by Roman playwright-moralist Seneca. While Euripides was sort of questioning polytheism in his tragedies, Seneca -born almost 500 years later- lived in the midst of the origins of Christianity, so the "moira" (destiny) and the Olympus gods were at stake. Medea (so admired by feminists) has never escaped criticism as a character that hardly can claim that Zeus or Destiny forced her to commit her crimes. Garciadiego knows this, so in trying to adapt the story to contemporary times, she introduces telling images of dysfunctionality (her Julia/Medea is viciously abusing herself because of her addictive relationship), but the screenwriter is at odds when she deals (she rather does not) with the religious and magic thoughts that impelled Medea's original actions: in this version they are almost absent. Julia/Medea (Arcelia Ramírez in a very good performance, considering what Ripstein and Garciadiego put her through) does practice "witchcraft" (by performing cheap abortions and silly spells), she has visions of her rival being destroyed by fire, and though Ripstein recurrently introduces the image of a golden van running through México City streets, there's no magic and nothing makes much sense, the less when Julia/Medea leaves home in a yellow taxi, as if nothing... On the other hand, Garciadiego's misanthropy is useful to explain Nicolás/Jason's actions, as in a very good sequence when Nicolás/Jason (Luis Felipe Tovar, a young Mexican Christopher Lee who seems to be in most Mexican movie these days) declares the "macho manifesto" while boxing. Wonderful Patricia Reyes Spíndola is also at hand and repeats her characterization from "La perdición de los hombres", this time as Julia/Medea's godmother, but I could not help feeling like a pitiless voyeur, watching these low class characters being described with so much ridicule and lack of sympathy.
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