Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Drama/Mex (2007)

It was around the time that director Gerardo Naranjo cut to an entirely random shot of two dogs fucking that I realized he was trying way too hard to get attention with this, his debut film. Which is a shame, because there's a lot of things that work here. Drama/Mex is yet another of those we-are-all-connected narratives that have metastasized since the late '90s, when Altman became an elder statesman and PT Anderson exploded out of nowhere. Naranjo, however, avoids the torturous machinations of Crash and Babel by having his dual strands run parallel instead of intertwining; occasionally, the two threads bounce off each other, but the cumulative effect is one of watching a genuine tapestry rather than a Rube Goldberg machine set up to arrive in one place and one place only. Of the two threads, one involves a runaway/teenage whore (Miriana Moro) making a tentative connection with a suicidal, dissolute office worker (Fernando Becerril). This particular plotline has some marvelous stuff in it, as what appears to be pointless button-pushing at first (the low point being when Moro, not knowing as we do that Becerril has an incestuous relationship with his daughter, asks if they should identify themselves to a waiter as father and daughter or lovers) eventually develops into something for more interesting: a subtle and observant portrait of two lost souls trying to find one another. This plot climaxes in a miracle of a scene, a long sequence at a dance club where I suddenly realized that I genuinely cared about what happened to these characters. The second plot, though, is the one that fouls everything up. It depicts a young woman (Diana Garcia) caught between her boyfriend (Juan Pablo Castaneda) and a lover from her past (Emilio Valdéz); it starts off with a rape scene uncomfortably reminiscent of the infamous scene with Susan George from Straw Dogs and despite some interesting bits never quite finds its footing. I did like how the expected violent confrontation between the two men gets played off and delayed in various ways, most notably in the bit where Castaneda shows up, drunken and raging, at Garcia's house not to challenge Valdéz but to have some traveling mariachis serenade her in a clumsy attempt to win her back, but I couldn't muster up enough sympathy for these hormonal fools for this thread to be anything but an anchor. Naranjo shows a lot of promise, and he conjures up some wonderful stretches of cinema. The final scene, in particular, hums with unassuming grace. Pity, then, that the banality of easy grotesquerie overwhelms the positive aspects of what Naranjo has achieved.

Grade: C


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I loved this movie. It is my favorite one this year. but i am sad to realize that it is only me

2:38 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

You aren't the film's only fan -- Theo and MD'A both are positive on it as well.

5:32 PM  

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