Days in Guadalajara: Day 4

juntos
Juntos

By ROBERT KOEHLER

I’m not going to devote any more moments than they deserve to Guadalajara’s Mexican competition. It was universally deemed bad (by everyone, critics, programmers, sales company reps alike), much worse than last year’s crop, which at least yielded Fernando Eimbcke’s Lake Tahoe and, in its modest way, Rodrigo Pla’s The Desert Within. Pla’s film, in this current group, would look like a high masterpiece. Only one competition film (we’re not including Gerardo Naranjo’s AFI-screened I’m Gonna Explode, since it’s quite old—from last fall—and immeasurably better than anything else) ranked, and that was Carlos Serrano’s El Arbol, which I won’t write about here since I’m reviewing it for Variety and was a premiere in Rotterdam’s Tiger competition. There was also Nicolas Pereda’s second film and the only strong world premiere, Juntos, but that inexplicably wasn’t in the competition (and slotted over in Lipkes’ and Cruz’s “Alternative Currents” section) and, again, a Variety review film. And, irony of ironies, both video copies of El Arbol and Juntos were shown on sub-standard video projectors.

The Mexican films were bogged down in lousy direction, banal mise-en-scene, undeveloped ideas, total lapses in sense, and worst of all, the Amores Perros Problem. That’s the one where you, the screenwriter, watch Amores Perros for, oh, the 30th time, and decide that you too will concoct a scenario with three interlacing storylines involving characters at various crisis points in a sweaty, nervous Mexico City. The lineup was lousy with such stuff, and will be quickly forgotten. Why they were shown in a festival is a mystery, and may only be possibly perceived through some obscure lens buried deep inside the Mexican film industry. What’s worse, perhaps, is that they were selected from a larger group of submissions—the largest in the festival’s history, due to the boost in production from recent tax incentive film production laws. It’s hard to imagine how poor the rejects must have been if these were the ones that survived the selection. I must stress: Everyone attending the press/industry screenings over several days would more or less echo what I write.

It may also be the case that, with Cannes having recently latched onto the Mexican scene in a big way with successes like El Violin, certain Mexican directors and producers are starting to hold back from Guadalajara—traditionally the place where major Mexican films get their start—and hold out for Cannes. Especially right now, where filmmakers around the world are waiting for a call from Thierry Fremaux or Olivier Pere to see if they’re in, somewhere, in Cannes. That’s the way the festival world is working these days, and Guadalajara may be getting hit by all sides: Pre-Cannes jitters on one end, and films that are simply not ready for prime time…….

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