"Aventurera" has all the trappings of a modern, classic noir film. It contains, but is not limited to, an exciting robbery heist gone wrong, double crossing, sexual innuendos, a dastardly mother, and a femme fatale that can not only hold her own with the guys, but dance whenever a moment gets too tense. If it weren't for the subtitles or the Spanish-language, this little film could have been the next "Gun Crazy" (aka "Deadly is the Female"). Made during an era where films were willing, and excited to take challenges, "Aventurera" begins with a bang and ends with a bigger bang. It successfully keeps your attention through numerous characters, both evil and righteous, while continuing to keep you in the dark about the true motives of our heroine, Elena (played by Ninon Sevilla). It is a classic, it is independent, it is violent, but it isn't perfect. While I laud the work done on this film, it was not as entertaining as one may initially perceive. This is a noir film, it is stylish and backstabbing all at the same time, but there is another element throughout the film which heavily pulls it away from the true roots of the word "noir", and that my friends, is the nearly half-dozen song and dance routines smitten throughout. These songs, these two-steps, detract from what is happening, they pull you away from the world surrounding our characters, and honestly, are used as nothing more than filler. A 70-minute film easily became 101-minutes with songs diced throughout. It is the one crucial element that pulled "Aventurera" from a supporting noir to a mediocre entry into 1940s cinema.
What was there to enjoy about this film? Outside of the painful moments mentioned above, the characters were rich, the story was disturbingly dark, and the twists came from every angle, nearly a mile-a-minute. This was an action packed thriller that would have left little time for comfort had it not been for those songs. There were people we couldn't trust, people that we did but betrayed us, there were scandals, there were loves, there were blackmails everything was in place for a solid film. Even the subtitles were strong, giving us a strong plot and easily following structures, but those songs ARG! I digress, Ninon Sevilla portrayed Elena as this no-nonsense girl who wasn't afraid to show her emotion and be the one to take the lead. Videohound's Independent Film Guide quotes, "Before we saw it ["Aventurera"], we'd never heard of its star, Ninon Sevilla, and now we can't wait to see some of her other movies
", and I couldn't agree further. She captured the audience through the screen. We followed her, willingly or unwillingly, we kept our eyes close on her every move, wondering when her next big move was being planned or what cog we were going to witness in her overall master plan. She made this film exciting. Sevilla could even sing and dance, and while it was a distraction from the film, she was graceful and elegant in the way that she did it. I cannot fault her, only the choice of the creators.
Speaking of the creators (awesome segway), compliments must also be awarded to the writer and director of this film. Sans the dancing and singing, this is a strong unknown entry into the world of foreign noir. The story was tight; the tension between the actors felt real, and the construction of the story seemed solid. There were elements that felt too lightly handled, but when it came to the big bang moments, the team behind this film had no problem showing us their goods. "Aventurera" shocked me, much like other films from the 40s, with its dark sexual undertones. From the beginning of our film, we are introduced to infidelity and prostitution, and the bus doesn't stop there. This pushed the boundaries for this film and demonstrated a darker side of noir that reminded me of an early American noir feature entitled "Detour". Just like Ulmer, the creators of "Aventurera" have no issues with showing us poverty, and how the corrupt value of money can spark even the slightest greed in any heroine. On a side note, I especially enjoyed the portrait of Rengo, this crippled sidekick that steps out of the shadows for his heart. "Aventurera" is a very suspenseful film, and was able to keep this audience right at the edge of my seat.
Overall, this isn't a perfect film. This is a noir film from the top to the bottom, but in the middle there is a muddled murkiness that doesn't seem to fit and was added just to appeal to a masculine audience. If I have said it before, I will say it again; the song and dance numbers were destructive to this feature. They felt like commercials, interrupting key moments with breaks, only to return with this viewer feeling less excited about the future. There is one song which Sevilla wears bananas while dancing which brought me into a frustrating sweat due to its similarities to a horrid pseudo-documentary entitled, "Carmen Miranda: Bananas Is My Business". This was the only moment where "Aventurera" felt stale and cliché. Was this overplayed Spanish-speaking cliché used only because it wanted to assure American audiences that they were in Mexico? Again, I cannot sit here and say that I loved everything about this film, because it would be a lie. I loved the juxtaposition between Sevilla and her arch rival, Rosaura (played by Andrea Palma) their scene shot sparks from my DVD player. The characters are worth viewing this film once, maybe twice, but the songs are fast-forward-able. I can suggest it. See how dark in the late 1940s were for those living in Guadalajara.
Grade: *** ½ out of *****
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