The UHF of the film world.
Latest news

Manuel de Layet [Film Festival 09.06.11] Mexico movie review comedy drama crime

Year: 2011
Directors: Luis Estrada
Writers: Luis Estrada
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: The Crystal Ferret
Rating: 8 out of 10

The Sevententh edition of L’Etrange opened today and here I am, bright eyed and bushy tailed ready to cover it and throw into the dark pits of your minds the succulent marrow that’s extractable from the little selection of movies I’ve picked up to cover. I’ll take a few lines here to dwell a little on said selection. This is l’Etrange, one of the richest fests ever in terms of weird, strange, mindboggling movies to fry up the last brain cells you haven’t killed yet with alcohol, weed and nickelodeon cartoons. But like everything, even there in the kingdom of the visual freaks, there’s the mainstream and the underground, the hip and the square.

So this year I’ve decided to cover only what I think I would myself find disturbing, or alarmingly, funny and the little gems that won’t get screen-time elsewhere for quite some time, after all the blockbusters will be reviewed thoroughly by my fellow Quietearthians.

To quote Dr. Thompson: “The idea of trying to "cover this race" in any conventional press sense was absurd.” This was true for the mint 400, this is true here. In a way the crowd attracted in both is roughly the same. So instead of movie reviews and snippets you’ll get pure gonzo coverage, my ramblings and thoughts, and I hope an entertainment value in reading my words equivalent to the one of being there.

To be honest this parti-pris came from a dire dilemma. I had to choose my first movie of the fest between the main attraction in the big theatre, or some seemingly twisted film in one of the smallest auditoriums. How I decided to go in for the underdog is simple : the movie screened in the main theatre has already been reviewed two times on the site, and it’s from Xavier Gens, whose only movie I ever saw was Frontieres, and it is noted that the dvd was actually thrown out of the window (literally, it flew quite well) before the end of its first fifteen minutes. I thought it wiser for my nerves to go see something I wasn’t prejudiced against.

Our first attraction is “El Infierno”, a Mexican comedy about narcs.
There’s a lot of drama around it, as stated in the fest leaflet it has won a truck-load of awards at the latest Ariels, and its success was such that the actual government stated that, in the future, they’d like movies not to break the nation spirit. On the other hand, director’s Luis Estrada timed his movie during the bicentennial celebrations, and actually released the movie the day before as an added provocation. I like that kind of spirit.

So what is it all about? It’s the story of Benny, coming back from the US into his native home, only to find himself in the middle of a drug war. There are many levels in any reading. Here for example , we have the first political in your face intention about the disillusion of a country, the deliciously entertaining comedy that’s like Godfellas whose cast would have been made by Francisco Goya, and also a nice moral tale about damnation.

I leave the political aspect out there for those who are interested in such things, I’m not.

Now, we left our hero with his bag and beaten dog expression at the door of his country, deported here after 20 years spent in the States. He’ll go back to his hometown of San Miguel, only to find his childhood surroundings in a state of war and corruption so incredible he’ll take time to adjust. From there everything goes downhill on a nice rhythm for 145 mins.

Unshadowing the last years Benny will get involved in what’s happening, somehow convinced he’s doing the only right choices given the situation.” What’s the situation?” You’ll ask me. Nothing out of the ordinary, the whole area is in the middle of a vendetta between two “rancheros-turned narcs” brothers, everyday life is happening on a background of rifle shots and those who aren’t actively fighting live in a pragmatic state of fear and opportunistic looting of the occasional corpse.

Not to spoil anything, I’ll just say that Benny will reunite with old friends, take to himself to help his brother’s widow, and doing that will get the only job that pays around there.

The rest is a laugh ride in the vein of any crime comedy involving sex drugs and big guns, there’s an incredible laugh potential in seeing all these almost surreal barren landscapes cruised by heavy set, sweating moustachioed men blinged up to the teeth, in oversized pickups killing things with gusto.

Retrospectively I wonder. They live in the middle of nowhere, all the buildings we see are derelict, ruins, there’s no visible shops, no activity in the streets except the occasional drive by, so the question that’s now wrecking my mind is: where the fuck do they buy their clothes / jewellery? I mean basically given the standard shop/kilometres ratio in rural area, the tailor and the jeweller they all go must cash in almost as much as them without the hassle of being shot at on random occasions.

The way they spend cash means roughly they should more or less support a dozen working families each, that’s not a bad ratio in wealth redistribution. Maybe there’s a San Miguel suburb where an entire narco-founded bourgeoisie of gold retailers prospers. Or it’s the raging vendetta that destroyed the economic bubble that was surely going on for some time and dustballed everything.

I’ll never know for sure and frankly it doesn’t impair on the experience, the over- the-top show of ugly golden toecaps, python and leopard shirts, and guns with the holy virgin painted on the grip is one of the highlights of the hour. And like I said earlier, all these fashion accessories are sported by a cast that makes one vividly thinking about Goya, it’s Humanity in all her unadorned glory and contributes wonderfully to the gritty atmosphere. The female cast is on the same line with an added animal sensuality that’s clearly lacking from the guntotting machos.

The moral aspect is in the title. Hell. It is a comedy, yes, but it’s a sad one. You see, between the killings, whoring, cocaine snorting and all round merry making sweeps some angst : questions, delusions, deep and profound reflexions on the nature of life itself and on why did we had to burn that asshole in an old petrol barrel. The idea of redemption / damnation is part of every Christian culture, even if said Christians are drugs dealers. Or should I say, even more when said Christians are drug dealers.

The recurring question is “don’t you worry about Hell ? – Why ? this life, this is hell” And yes, for our dear protagonists, hell is all there is.When stepping back in his country, Benny plunged head first in Hell. Not his own at first, Hell made for him by the choices and actions of others: his friends and brother. He’s then faced with choices, either to ignore the moral ethos of family, or take part in his own vendetta to try and redress the wrongs made. In following what he thinks is his duty he’ll add his personal Hell to the ambient one.

And this will know no end. If he ignored what had to be done and flew, he would have been plagued by guilt, doubt and then again by another Hell.
Hell is all there is. Be it yours or the one people made for you, Hell is all there is.

You might also like

Leave a comment