Back to Movies Index

 
  Classic Mexican Movie Collection  
  These reviews and info are from the IMDb Web Site
If I find better reviews I'll post them below the IMDb material

These are a few after 1980, made in Mexico. I'm sure there are a few more out there I've missed.

-> Internet Internet Movie Database - IMDb <-

 

 
   Abre los Ojos (1997)
 

Plot Outline:  An imprisoned man hides his face behind a mask is telling his story, as a flashback, to a psychiatrist: his name is César, he is an orphan but he had inherited a fortune from his parents, and he used to live in a luxurious house of his his own. He was also very handsome and a renowned womanizer. His best friend, Pelayo, was jealous of César because he was not very successful with women. But one night, Pelayo showed up in one of César's parties with a beautiful woman named Sofía. When César met her and talked to her for a while, he began to feel something he had never felt before: love. And, although she was supposed to be Pelayo's girlfriend, he tried to woo her, spending that night at her home. But Nuria, with whom César had his last affair, was very jealous; she went to pick him up in her car the next morning, and committed suicide by ramming it into a tree. César survived the crash, but his face was hideously disfigured, his handsome looks gone. Doctors said they couldn't help him. He was very depressed and still in love with Sofía. One night he went out with her and Pelayo, and he felt that they were very uncomfortable with his presence. But the morning after, his luck seemed to change completely: Sofía came to him, saying that it was he whom she really loved, and the doctors called him and told him that, with a revolutionary new technique, they could rebuild his face, which they did. César was happier than ever, but that's when the really strange and scary things started to happen...and César found out that the real nightmare had only just began for him....

"Abre Los Ojos" is one of the most astonishing movies I have ever seen. It's so full of astounding twists that it constantly makes you sit up and wonder what the next shot will bring you. At the same time, you keep wondering if a movie with so many twists will be able to tie everything up at the end, but Amenabar and his co-writer manage to do just that, in a reasonably (if not perfectly) satisfying manner. Eduardo Noriega's acting is so good it's beyond belief, and so is the "disfiguring" makeup. Pair this off with "The Game" for a truly mind-bending double feature and see what cinema should be like more often. (***1/2)
 

 
  Cronos (1993)

Plot Summary: n 1535, an alchemist builds an extraordinary mechanism encapsulated into a small golden device. The invention, designed to convey eternal life to its owner, survives its maker until 1997 when it shows up to an antiquarian. Fascinated with the strange device, Gris (Luppi) doesn't note that there's more than one person looking for it. The promise of eternal life has become an obsession to old and sick Mr. De la Guardia (Brook). He and his nephew (Perlman) will do anything to get the "Chronos Invention".

When antiques dealer Jesús finds the legendary Cronos device within a statue he accidentally uses it. It feeds on his life force in exchange for eternal life. However wealthy Dieter and his nephew Angel also want the device and are willing to do anything to get it.
This is certainly a different vision of the vampire story, it dispels with a lot of the gore, the castles, Igor etc, but keeps the sunlight, the through the heart death etc. The story moves very slowly and is focused on Jesús and the devices' effect on him. His accidental transformation causes concern within his granddaughter and he finds that eternity has a price. The scenes between Jesús and Aurora are touching and make a nice change from the blood letting scenes.
The action is never really forthcoming and it is a little stilted in a way. Pearlman's character is a good addition to the story, but it does move so slowly that it may be a disappointment to those expecting a horror film. Luppi is good as Jesús, haunted by a gift he never wanted, Tamara is also strong as his granddaughter.
Overall it's an interesting retelling of a famous story. The direction is faultless although the story occasionally feels aimless and drifting.
 
 
  Santitos (1999)
 
This is really an excellent movie. I was very surprised to read the great reviews it got in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Sun-Times, Dallas Morning News, New York Daily News, Time Out, LA Weekly, Movie Maker, etc. Incredible reviews appeared on most newspapers in Spain as well. I highly recommend to see this fun picture because the story is unique, the acting superb, and the light-hearted way of telling this story is unforgettable. Don't miss this classic

 

 
     
 
Cabeza de Vaca (1991)
 

Plot Summary:  An international award winning saga of old Mexico. In 1528, a Spanish expedition founders off the coast of Florida with 600 lives lost. One survivor, Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca, roams across the American continent searching for his Spanish comrades. Instead, he discovers the Iguase, an ancient Indian tribe. Over the next eight years, Cabeza de Vaca learns their mystical and mysterious culture, becoming a healer and a leader. But soon this New World collides with the Old World as Spanish conquistadors seek to enslave the Indians, and Cabeza de Vaca must confront his own people and his past.

"Cabeza de Vaca" may be viewed as a surrealistic rumination on the nature of early contact between Europeans and North American Indians, but it has very little to do with the actual narrative of events as presented to Charles V by Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca in his 1542 report.
Viewers who may wonder about the rapid transition from Florida to the Southwest in the movie should realize that the opening scene depicting the separation of the rafts of Captain Narvaez and Cabeza de Vaca took place off the coast of Louisiana WEST of the Mississippi more than a year after their first landfall in Florida, despite the meager information provided in the opening credits. Cabeza de Vaca is also presented as Treasurer to the King of Spain, when in fact he was merely treasurer of that particular expedition.
And although the long sequence early in the movie showing Cabeza de Vaca's period of slavery to the Indian sorcerer and the armless dwarf is quite interesting to see, there is no corresponding incident in the explorer's writings. C de V did report on a brief period of enslavement, but that is all. No sorcerer, no dwarf.
Similarly, the bond created between C de V and the young Indian who he cures by removing an arrowhead is not in the original narrative, but rather a conflation of several different episodes from the journey.
The key scenes of capture and near-murder by the blue-painted Indians are wholly the creation of the screenwriter.
The movie has an inconsistent approach to nudity. Most of the Indian tribes encountered by C de V went entirely naked during the warm season, but are almost always shown with at least some kind of loincloth. However, during the "blue Indian" sequence and later, when the survivors are taken in by friendly Indians for a while, full nudity is present among the females, and even full-frontal on the part of an Indian girl who offers herself to one of C de V's men. Meant to be tittilating? I don't know. It wasn't. In C de V's report, he notes a number of times that he and his Spanish companions were, for a long period, "naked as the day we were born," but there is no male nudity whatsoever in the film.
So what is accurate? The suffering endured, for sure, and the apparent success of the Spaniards in "curing" Indians through the power of God. The arrival in Mexico toward the end, and the capture of the Indians there as slaves. That's about it.
Nevertheless, the film holds the attention throughout, and the final scene of Indians bearing the enormous silver cross through the desert is quite arresting.

 

 
  El Crimen del Padre Amaro (2002)

Plot Outline: Recently ordained a priest, 24-year-old Father Amaro is sent to a small parish church in Los Reyes, Mexico to assist the aging Father Benito in his daily work. Benito--for years a fixture in the church as well as the community--welcomes Father Amaro into a new life of unseen challenges. Upon arriving in Los Reyes, the ambitious Father Amaro meets Amelia, a beautiful 16-year-old girl whose religious devotion soon becomes helplessly entangles in a growing attraction to the new priest. Amelia is quickly following into the footsteps of her mother, Sanjuanera, who has been engaged in a long-time affair with Father Benito. Amaro soon discovers that corruption and the Church are old acquaintances in Los Reyes. Father Benito has been receiving financial help from the region's drug lord for the construction of a new health clinic. As well, another priest in the diocese, Father Natalio, is suspected of assisting guerilla troops in the highlands. Meanwhile, Amelia and Father Amaro have fallen in love and have begun a passionate sexual relationship. As things become increasingly more complicated in the small community, the walls around Father Amaro begin to crumble. Torn between the divine and the carnal, the righteous and the unjust, Father Amaro must summon his strength to choose which life he will lead.

This is a very honest film and as i was born in Spain i can tell is a hard to watch film for any catholic, because it touches some issues about the hypocrisy involved in the church and some believers in a small town. Very good movie honest, direct and well directed. The Acting and pacing is awesome.
 
 
  El Imperio de la Fortuna (1986) Directed by Arturo Ripstein

Plot Summary:  A very poor and handicapped man, lives in a small town in Mexico with his mother. He works announcing things along the town ("The priest lost his cow, if someone sees it ..."). He is very interested in the cock fighting. One day a man gives him a looser cock, thinking to give him something to eat, but instead he takes care of the animal and it becomes a winner cock. He begins to win some money. La Caponera, a very good looking singer, earlier avoided him but now she uses her coquetry to gain some drinks. He thinks she is his talisman so she marries her when he becomes rich, taking her apart from the show-bizz, so she begins to feel very unhappy.

Based on a short story by Juan Rolfo, EL IMPERIO DE LA FORTUNA tells the story of Dionosio Pinzon, a Mexican peasant living with his mother. Born with a deformed hand, and living a very meager life, Dionosio's luck turns around when he is given a losing gamecock which he nurses back to health. He trains the bird for fighting, begins to make money, and begins a relationship with a gold-digging singer. As he makes money, though, he begins to become more and more corrupt--and it becomes apparent that his winni
ng streak will not last. This story was also filmed by Roberto Gavaldon in 1965 as EL GALLO DE ORO (GOLDEN ROOSTER).
 

 
  Sin Dejar Huella (2000)

User Comments: Wandering around in Mexico - This movie is a delightful mixture of a comedy and a road movie: two good actresses, beautiful scenery of off the beaten track Mexico (the huge crumbling estate where the women stay at one point is quite stunning), and soulful Mexican songs with great lyrics. I liked the fact that the friendship that developed between the two women with very different backgrounds was actually believable and of course that, at the end, everybody got what they deserved. I really liked the songs played throughout the movie, especially since their lyrics were also translated for those like me who don't speak Spanish. Overall, a very pleasant watch.
 

 
  Naturaleza Viva Frida  (1986)

Plot Summary:  The most prominent female painter of Latin America, Frida Kahlo, is agonizing in her Coyoacán home. She evokes memories of her childhood, of the streetcar accident that caused her terrible pain and affliction, her friendship with Trotsky and painter Alfaro Siqueiros, her marriage to Diego Rivera, her miscarriage, her political commitment, her love affairs and the anticipated exhibition of her works.

Frida is the story of a woman who has an obsession with the physical image of herself. During the course of the movie she suffers from a profound identity crisis. The viewer will immediately notice the lack of dialogue in this film. The absence of dialogue represents the fact that communication for Frida is visual, not verbal. Her works of art speak for her as she communicates her pain and suffering through her paintings. Frida Kahlo's obsession with her physical abnormalities drives her to paint herself disfigured and in pain and directly reflects her personal suffering. The viewer realizes that art is life for Frida. Art was the way in which she communicated but unfortunately, the public does not seem to get a firm understanding of her pain nor the manner in which she expressed herself.
 
 
     
  Yo, la Peor de Todas (1990)
 

Plot Summary:  A viceroy and an archbishop take their posts in Mexico. A local nun, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (1651-1695), intrigues them. The viceroy and his wife find her brilliant and fascinating. The prelate finds her a symbol of European laxity. He engineers the election of a new abbess, severe and ascetic. The virreina visits Sor Juana often and inspires her to write passionate poetry that the archbishop finds scandalous. The viceroy protects her. After he is replaced and returns to Spain with his wife, Sor Juana faces envy and retribution. A bishop betrays her, her confessor humbles her. Plague, a tribunal, and her confession as "the worst of all" end the great poet's life.

This film is an interesting historical piece set in the late 17th century. It is in Spanish and is based on a book by noted Mexican author Octavio Paz, which was itself based on a true story. The story is about Sor Juana, a nun and poet in Spanish Mexico who challenges the theology of the archbishop. In doing so, it also explores the tension between the church and the crown, in this case between the archbishop and the viceroy, who supports Sor Juana. The camera work and use of color, light, and shadow throughout the film sets the mood quite well. While it occasionally seems a little drawn out, in general it is an interesting, effective and entertaining work.
 
 
   El  Callejón de los Milagros (1995)
 

Plot Summary:  Based on the Nobel Prize Winner's novel, the Egyptian Naguib Mahfouz. The story, translated from El Cairo to Mexico City's downtown, narrates the life of the members of the neighbourhood and the connection between them Don Ru, the owner of the local pub; Eusebia, his wife; Guicho, his son and Abel his friend, who emigrate to USA in search of fortune; Susanita, the single landtender always dreaming to marry a good man; Jimmy, the pub's employee, who extracts the money when Don Ru is not there and finally marries Susanita; Alma, the very good looking girl, the Abel's dream, who becomes a luxury prostitute while he's away, etc. This movie won the Ariel (the Mexican Oscar) as best movie in 1995.
 

The lives of the inhabitants of El Callejon de los Milagros, in downtown Mexico City, are closely knitted as the threads of a rug. Fifty-something Don Ru (Gomez Cruz) owns a small "cantina" where all the men spend afternoons playing domino. He's tired of his longtime marriage with Eusebia (Casanova) and has recently discovered new feelings inside his heart. It doesn't matter if these feelings are not aimed to a young lady but to a young clerk (Soberanes): after all, as one of the characters says, "it's platonic love". Don Ru's son Chava (Bernal) doesn't like what he sees and almost kills his father's lover. Running away from Don Ru's anger, Chava escapes to the USA with his friend Abel (Bichir) who's deeply in love with beautiful Alma (Hayek), the daughter of Dona Cata (Rojo), a tarot reader with bad luck in love. Susanita (Sanz), the ugly landlady looking for love; Guicho (Tovar), Don Ru's cinic employee, Maru (Scanda), Don Fidel (Obregon), Dona Flor (Morett), Zacarias (Woolrich) and mean Jose Luis (Gimenez Cacho) complete the cast of characters of this complex portrait of lives.
 

 
  La Pasión de María Elena  (2003)

Plot Outline: A tribal woman from Mexico's Tarahumara Mountains seeks justice for the death of her son who is tragically killed by a car driven by a white woman.

This beautifully shot documentary about an indigenous Mexican woman trying to wring justice from a corrupt court system has all the right ingredients, but doesn't add up to a successful film. Perhaps its the endless teary-eyed hand wringing on the part of the film's protagonist, but this is a wearisome exercise indeed. Worthy of a look by documentary fans, but hardly in the first rank.
 
 
  Pueblo de Madera (1990)

Plot Summary:   In San Miguel de Cruces, a timber town in northern Mexico, friends Jose Luis and Juan Jose finish their primary education at the local school. During the last holidays together, we see life in the town: their parents' work, the old cinema and the parties, the teenagers' love...
 

 
  Hable con Ella (2002)
 

Plot Outline:  After a chance encounter at a theater, two men, Benigno and Marco, meet at a private clinic where Benigno works. Lydia, Marco's girlfriend and a bullfighter by profession, has been gored and is in a coma. It so happens that Benigno is looking after another woman in a coma, Alicia, a young ballet student. The lives of the four characters will flow in all directions, past, present and future, dragging all of them towards an unsuspected destiny.
 

I had absolutely no idea what to expect when I watched 'Hable Con Ella'. All I knew was that it was directed by Pedro Almodovar, who is considered as one of the biggest talents outside of Hollywood. Well, he certainly has some talent. A talent to make movies that are not always easy to watch, but certainly thought provoking, beautiful, compelling and stylish.

'Hable Con Ella' tells the story of two men who are in love with a woman in a coma and how they both handle this in a different way. They meet each other in the hospital with a beautiful friendship between the two men as a result.

Pedro Almodovar is some kind of artist who likes to paint with words and images. As a result you get a beautiful tale about obsession, love, friendship and desperation, which may not be to everybody's taste because of the bizarre subject, but which certainly touched me. It's very original and I would recommend it to everybody who isn't afraid to watch a movie with a special subject. I give it a 9/10
 
 
  Y tu Mamá También (2001)

Plot Outline: Abandoned by their girlfriends for the summer, teenagers Tenoch and Julio meet the older Luisa at a wedding. Trying to be impressive, the friends tell Luisa they are headed on a road trip to a beautiful, secret beach called Boca del Cielo. Intrigued with their story and desperate to escape, Luisa asks if she can join them on their trip. Soon the three are headed out of Mexico City, making their way toward the fictional destination. Along the way, seduction, argument and the contrast of the trio against the harsh realities of the surrounding poverty ensue

Alfonso Cuaron is simply one of the best Mexican directors in recent years in Mexican film production. His incredible AIDS-driven comedy, "Solo Con Tu Pareja" was maybe the most funny Mexican picture in a long time, and his always present criticism to the way of life of Mexican people in a city such as Mexico City, is incredible accurate and clever. His other projects in the United States, "Little Princess" and "Great Expectations" were beautifully-manufactured motion pictures, with the help (or support, if you may) of the marvellous photographer Emmanuel Lubenzki ("Sleepy Hollow", and the above-mentioned Cuaron movies). Returning to his home country this time, Cuaron displays such magic and poetic visuals, in contrast with the subtle criticism to the society in Mexico, and the clever and sharp dialogs between the leading stars, using every word young Mexicans use to apply in their conversations.

"Y Tu Mama Tambien" (And Your Mother Too) is, in the surface, a really funny story about 2 friends-almost-brothers, Tenoch Iturbide (an outstanding Diego Luna) and Julio (a really incredible performance for the recent Ariel, the Mexican Academy Award, winner Gael Garcia Bernal, in another excellent portray of a young guy with "issues"), that plan a trip to an imaginary beach, "Boca del Cielo" (Heaven´s Mouth) in order to flirt with a Spanish girl, married with Tenoch's cousin, and portrayed by a credible Maribel Verdu.

But this is only the "surface" of this road movie. In fact, we are dealing with dreams and realities, with social problems and political ones. Tenoch is a young guy living with a millionaire family, son of a wealthy businessman with friends in the highest "stairs" of Mexican politics, with a second name such as Iturbide (one of the most important and powerful leaders of Mexican politic history). And, in contrast, Julio is a middle-low-class guy, living with his mother, brothers and sisters, in a small department, with a last name such as Zapata (a revolutionary leader in Mexican history, with native origins, that took part in the Revolution at the beginning of 20th Century). This is a clever and sharp critic of the different models of living of these 2 friends, and in fact, of all Mexican citizens (I know it, because I'm Mexican, too).

Also, the movie has an excellent narration by Daniel Gimenez Cacho, star of a previous Cuaron film, "Solo Con Tu Pareja", that explains the things we cannot see, but that we can understand and feel. The "subtle critic about Mexican society and traditions" that I have talked about all along this comment, is the one thing that makes this picture go from a funny comedy to an intelligent essay of the lives of young people, social classes, discovery and re-discovery of personality and our own soul, and the final revelation of who we are and what we become when time passes by. In the lives of Julio and Tenoch there is no redemption, but a clear message of their goal in life, their true feelings about friendship, and their sexuality. This road trip is only a pretext to tell a story about discovery and finding our true nature.

Yes, maybe it is a little provocative and bold, but because of these characteristics, "And Your Mother Too" is an incredible motion picture, true to its meaning and compromised with the reality it is trying to show. We care about this people, we care about their problems, and at the end, we care about our own society, and we care about what we have become with time. And the true meaning of the movie's title, "And Your Mother Too", within the narrative of the film, is simply hilarious.

Give this movie a chance, and see it. You won't be disappointed. It has an excellent direction, excellent photography, its is very sexy, it showcases credible performances by all its cast. But above all, it has a real story, real character development, and real power. One great movie from a great Mexican director. Maybe not his best, but really near.
 
 
  El Mariachi (1992)
 

Plot Outline:  El Mariachi just wants to play his guitar and carry on the family tradition. Unfortunately, the town he tries to find work in has another visitor...a killer who carries his guns in a guitar case. The drug lord and his henchmen mistake El Mariachi for the killer, Azul, and chase him around town trying to kill him and get his guitar case.

It is so well-established now in other comments, I won't repeat that Robert Rodriguez made this debut film of his for a mere $7,000. Regardless how much he did or didn't spend, this is a very well-written and photographed story of a nice young man who only wants to be a Mariachi singer, but is inadvertently caught up in a manhunt and several gunfights. The movie is not intended to be taken seriously. The crook with the guitar case full of guns is supposed to be part of the joke of the movie. Many people get shot and killed, and of course that isn't funny in real life, but this film is not intended to reflect real life. It is just an entertaining film. Sort of a cartoon come to life.

I saw this on DVD, which is real nice because the extra features contain a great insight into how Rodriguez shot and edited this movie. For example, all the filming was done "silently". Then, armed with a tape recorder and Radio Shack microphone, he had the actors re-do the scene while he recorded the dialog and other sounds. Music was done the same way. Then, when Rodriguez edited the movie, he matched the tape-recorded sound to the filmed action for the final cut. Watching the film you can notice some non-synchronization, and that's the reason why. It is certainly not distracting. He made the film with no crew, no fancy equipment, vrtally no lighting other than natural. Most of the actors were local Mexican businessmen, bartenders, or TV news men. Quite an achievement in movie-making, because it is a very entertaining movie on its own. I give it 9 of 10, partly because of the novelty of its origin.
 

 
  Danzón (1991)

Plot Summary: Julia (Rojo) is a phone operator in Mexico City who divides her time between her job, her daughter and the danzon: a cuban dance very popular in Mexico and Central America. Every wednesday Julia does the danzon with Carmelo (Rergis) in the old "Salon Colonia". They've danced for years but barely know each other. One night Carmelo disappears without a trace. Feeling lonely and sad, Julia takes a train to Veracruz, where she knows Carmelo has a brother. That sudden trip will change Julia's life forever.

What would a film for women look like? Well, one possibility is Maria Novaro's wonderful reversal of all of the expectations of male-oriented films. Playing with a number of genres and turning them on their heads, Novaro gives us the story of Julia, an ordinary late thirty-something woman, who, used to playing a traditionally passive, "feminine" role, takes on the active role of searching for her missing danzon partner in a journey that takes her from gloomy Mexico City to sun-drenched Veracruz. In the process she changes from object of the male gaze to bearer of the gaze. The film boasts a super performance from Maria Rojo as Julia and fine supporting performances by Carmen Salinas, Tito Vasconcelos, and Victor Carpenteiro. It is saturated with fantastic Mexican music, especially songs written by Veracruz' native son, Agustin Lara. And then there is the dancing. The danzon, where a single glance may give the game away, becomes a perfect metaphor for Julia's journey of self-discovery.

 

 
  Amores Perros (2000)
 

Plot Outline:  Three interconnected stories about the different strata of life in Mexico City all resolve with a fatal car accident. Octavio is trying to raise enough money to run away with his sister-in-law, and decides to enter his dog Cofi into the world of dog fighting. After a dogfight goes bad, Octavio flees in his car, running a red light and causing the accident. Daniel and Valeria's new-found bliss is prematurely ended when she loses her leg in the accident. El Chivo is a homeless man who cares for stray dogs and is there to witness the collision.

This Mexican movie was surprisingly good. I confess the sin of prejudice concerning Mexican cinema, this being maybe the second Mexican film I have ever seen, but here my sins are punished. This is the work of a director of big talent. Hopefully, he will not be spoiled by the success.

Three different stories in today's Mexico mix with very few common elements. The characters belong to different social categories, and nothing connects them at first sight, excepting the feeling of un-happiness, and - yes - dogs. Dogs play an important role in all three stories. One more warning - there is a lot of cruelty including dog fights - this film is certainly not for sensitive animal lovers.

Directing is excellent, the stories are human and complex and despite their melodramatic or sometimes tragic outcome, they still leave you with a shade of hope - maybe because the humanity that the author uses to create his characters. There are so many memorable scenes, that I would commit another sin to pick any and describe it here - just rent, or go to watch this movie in the theater - it is worth all 150 or so minutes you will spend. 9/10 on my personal scale.