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Una reseña de cine

April 22, 2019

Our estrella, Gael García Bernal.

 

This year I have had the privilege to embark on a cinematic journey through Spanish and Latinx films for my intensive intermediate and advanced Spanish classes. Here is a reseña, or review, of some of the films I watched in Spanish this year.

 

La lengua de las mariposas, José Luis Cuerda

Subtitles: Spanish

About a boy coming of age: Yes

Lengua was my introduction to the world of the Spanish coming-of-age film, and what an introduction it was. It should be noted that part of this coming-of-age included young Moncho witnessing two people having sex, and this is not something you want to be watching at one of the public computers on Lau 3. Lengua follows Moncho and his family in pre-civil war Spain as he learns values such as curiosity and independence from his leftist teacher and mentor. All that said, the movie is pretty sad, which combined with the lack of English subtitles leads me to a review of dos estrellas.

★★☆☆☆

 

Machuca, Andrés Wood

Subtitles: Spanish

About a boy coming of age: Yes

The next coming of age story is set in Chile on the brink of a military coup, where the wealthy young outcast Guillón befriends the new boy at his school, Pedro Machuca, who is shunned for his poverty. Guillón grows close to Pedro, his sister, and their family over a few too many cans of condensed milk. Their relationship amidst such a tenuous time will warm your heart and then stomp all over it. Tres estrellas.

★★★☆☆

 

No, Pablo Larraín

Subtitles: English

About a boy coming of age: See title

English Subtitles. Gael García Bernal. 94% on Rotten Tomatoes. Musical numbers. ‘Nuf said. Cuatro estrellas.

★★★★☆

 

Techo y Comida, Juan Miguel del Castillo

Subtitles: None

About a boy coming of age: Yes

For a while, I thought this film would be the mother of all boy coming-of-age films, largely because it was very sad and also literally about the mother of a boy coming of age. I was in fact mistaken (see Pelo Malo below). The lack of subtitles in Techo y Comida is really a difficult thing to overcome, but the story is very engaging. It follows a young mother and her son struggling through the 2008 financial crisis in Spain. It could be considered a Spanish version of The Florida Project, except the kid is a boy (por supuesto) and there is no Willem Dafoe. Tres estrellas.

★★★☆☆

 

El abrazo de la serpiente, Ciro Guerra

Subtitles: English

About a boy coming of age: No

El abrazo de la serpiente follows the interaction between a shaman from Colombia and two Western explorers at different points in the shaman’s life. The black and white film unites the characters with the nature around them, and the themes of exploration and exploitation recall Heart of Darkness, which may or may not be a good thing. We love ourselves some English subtitles, but even with them, the story is difficult to grasp. What I can tell you is that white people are the worst and also nature is being destroyed. Tres estrellas.

★★★☆☆

 

Ixcanul, Jayro Bustamante

Subtitles: Spanish

About a boy coming of age: No

As I look back on this film and try to remember it, I find myself remembering it in black and white even though it was filmed in color. Does that mean anything? I have no idea. Finalmente, we have a movie about a girl! And boy does she have a time. There are many parallels between this movie about an indigenous Guatemalan woman and Roma (babies, loving families, men who are the worst). The most beautiful thing about this movie, though, is the relationship between María and the volcano, Ixcanul, on which she and her family live. Cuatro estrellas.

★★★★☆

 

Pelo Malo, Mariana Rondón

Subtitles: English

About a boy coming of age: Yes

You are not ready for this film. It features Junior, an Afro-Latino boy who serves as a reminder to his Latina mom of his dead Afro-Latino father, and an Afro-Latina grandmother trying to pay the mom in exchange for raising Junior. You’d think that would be enough to create some drama, but no. Junior’s obsession with having straight hair and his crush on an older boy who lives in their apartment complex lead his mother to conclude that he is gay and that it is her fault (she thinks homosexuality is bad and can be cured). Obviously all of this is so messed up and in the end he is destroyed, and you are destroyed, and you wonder if love ever existed in the world or if it was just a myth created by greeting card companies to sell more things. No existe estrellas. No existe nada.

?????

 

Conducta, Ernesto Daranas

Subtitles: None

About a boy coming of age: Yes

Besides the fact that I could only understand about 7% of the dialogue, Conducta is definitely the most beautiful and emotionally engaging film that I have seen for class this year. This coming-of-age-boy, Chala, is very angsty and rolls up the sleeves on his shirts to make them into tank tops and takes care of, like, carrier pigeons? And he takes emo walks through the streets of Havana like a boss. The boy who plays Chala is really a fantastic actor (think young Tom Holland in The Impossible), and so are the actors who play his teacher and his awesome Hermione-esque love interest. I would really love to watch this with English subtitles sometime. Cinco estrellas.

★★★★★

 

 

Cooney is a Culture and Politics Freshman.

Photo Credit: Karim Tibari.

 

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