Back to Movies Index

 
  Classic Mexican Movie Collection  
  These reviews and info are from the IMDb Web Site

 

These are the pre 1980, made in Mexico (Not Hollywood), with a documentary flavor, movies that I've collected.
No Pedro Infante, Cantinflas or other popular Mexican symbols, although I have a few of those.


-> Internet Internet Movie Database - IMDb <-

 

 
      

La Rosa Blanca (1961)

Plot Summary: An illiterate Indian (Ignacio Lopez Tarso) lives an idyllic existence as a landowner on Mexico's Gulf Coast until the greed of a US oil company gets in the way. He is murdered and the lives of all those around him are irrevocably destroyed as the company takes over the land by crooked means. Based on the novel by B.Traven.

User Comments: Powerful Film about Social Consequences of Oil
 

Many countries face the challenges of oil reserves; they benefit from the money they gain, but pay a severe social cost for having oil. Mexico is not an exception to this rule, and the struggle of one family's fight against an oil company is masterfully depicted in La Rosa Blanca.

The acting, while a bit stylized, is quite good. (The film employed the services of some of Mexico's best actors of the time). Additionally, Roberto Gavaldon employs the use of two languages in the dialogue to create the disconnect necessary to understand the difficulties faced by Jacinto Yañez and his family.

La Rosa Blanca, directed by Roberto Gavaldon, is an exquisite work featuring cinematography by the illustrious Gabriel Figueroa. Originally completed in 1961, it was canned for eleven years because of its highly political nature. Mexico was suffering from the effects of a boom and bust oil economy during the early 1960s, therefore making its subject matter sensitive. It has often been mischaracterized as being anti-American: it is not. The film is, however, against the exploitative nature of oil corporations, a poignant fact that has significant value today.

My distaste for the final ten minutes of this film, where the film becomes a propaganda piece for the Mexican government, is the only reason this film does not get a ten.

 

 
 

La Perla  (1947)

Plot Summary: Quino is a Mexican diver that discovers a pearl at the bottom of the sea. He and his wife Juana, and their son have just taken possession of a pearl that is worth thousands. Everyday people try to get in on the cash, even Pearl Dealers try to rip them off. When Quino is attacked one day, he kills his attackers in self defence. His brother suggests their only hope is to leave the village. But on their journey to give their son an education they never had, someone may just do anything to prevent it.

User Comments: A visual feast!!!

I am a Brit happily married to a Mexicana for many years and lived in Mexico for a number of years.

La Perla is a photographic masterpiece of significant beauty and well worth seeing for the magnificence of the incredible use of natural light to highlight the scenery.

In addition to the two main stars the cast contains a number of actors whose work I have enjoyed immensely and the scenes depicting the singing and dancing at the local fiesta bring back to me countless memories of pleasure during my life in that beautiful country.

This film really does reflect the Golden Years of the Mexican Fim Industry.

 

 
 

Macario (1960)

Plot Summary: Poor, hungry peasant Macario longs for just one good meal on the Day of the Dead. After his wife cooks a turkey for him, he meets three apparitions, the Devil, God, and Death. Each asks him to share his turkey, but he refuses all except Death. In return, Death gives him a bottle of water which will heal any illness. Soon, Macario is more wealthy than the village doctor, which draws the attention of the feared Inquisition

User Comments: Memorable, funny, wise and very entertaining.

Beautifully realized fable that quickly made history as the first Mexican film to be nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Film. It is based on a story by B. Traven, the man behind the source material for the classic film Treasure of a Sierra Madre (1948). Like most fables, symbolism is plentiful, and the social message is unmistakably strong. The film opts for a combination of naturalism and surrealism, and the result is a visually dense, and dramatically interesting movie. The film's structure is reminiscent of both Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal (1957), and William Dieterle's The Devil and Daniel Webster (1941), so if you like any of those films, you will probably enjoy this movie. Dazzling camera work by the great Grabiel Figueroa is key to the film's success, but one cannot overlook Roberto Gavaldón's excellent direction, and a truly superb script by Emilio Carballido and Galvadon. Ignacio Lopez Tarso is perfectly cast as the peasant that makes a deal with "Mr. Death", and I loved the work of actress Pina Pillecer, who is a clone of actress Marisa Pavan.

 

 
   
  Subida al Cielo (1952) AKA- Mexican Bus Ride

Plot Summary: A young man and woman's honeymoon is cut short when the man learns that his mother has fallen ill back at home. The newlywed couple rush there to discover the other sons neglecting their mom in order to plot their squandering of the inheritance. The newlywed son takes quite an adventurous bus-ride to a distant city to get his mother's will notarized to the contrary, and is faced with multiple temptations along the way.

User Comments: left me thinking about the righteous path

Subida al cielo is a messy little story probably about the distractions and small miracles happening on everybody's way to heaven. It is short and seems simple, but there are sometimes strange things happening: has anybody the strength to go straight? If one does really go straight, one probably do not even have dreams. Dreams, wishful thinking and miracles like the improbable solution (by a little girl) for getting the bus out of the river with an ox instead of a tractor and the small miracle of the two vehicles that for no apparent reason suddenly CAN pass each other on the narrow path after a short meeting. Furthermore, Buñuel incorporates a few modest but funny dream sequences to emphasize that people (secretly) can think of other things, while they are on their certain way to heaven (the righteous path?). The English title 'Mexican Bus Ride' applies very well I guess: the whole is kind of low profile (probably also low budget :)

The acting is ok, but I never really got into the story, because the editing isn't good and there is no convincing mood to get into, although Buñuel uses some music in this movie. Miniature cars and sets make it fun to watch, but also do not convince. The movie feels more like an exercise than as a message from the heart, but I would like to see it again some time.

 

 
 
Yanco
(1961) - Quality is very bad on my copy

User Comments: An artistic marvel from Mexico

I've been waiting for a long time for this movie to be listed here. Caught it around 11 p.m. a LONG time ago on channel 9, KHJ-TV in Los Angeles, before it became KCAL(talk about dating yourself). I only saw it the one time, but, darnit, this should be seen by anyone who considers going into directing. The story of a young boy growing up in a contemporary Mexican village, who has an almost disabling sensitivity to any loud noise, who desperately seeks some outlet--any outlet--for his budding musical talent and finds it with help from an old man who lives on the outskirts of town and plays a haunting violin...well, they don't make them like that here, nowadays. The film's beguiling story line, the sedate, almost ethereal pace, together with an almost complete lack of spoken dialogue is a standing challenge for any budding filmmaker up here in El Norte to match what he did. If you see it in you local listings, PLEASE set your VCR. You'll be glad you did.

 

 
  Que Viva Mexico! - Da zdravstvuyet Meksika! (1979)

Plot Outline: Eisenstein shows us Mexico in this movie, its history and its culture. He believes, that Mexico can become a modern state.

User Comments: Even if it would have been completed, I would bet that it would be considered one of Eisenstein's lesser works

Que Viva Mexico is an interesting (reconstruction of a) film by Sergei Eisenstein, the director of so many masterpieces. In fact, of all that I have seen, this is the only non-masterpiece of the bunch. Even the reconstruction of Beshin Meadow I like more. Que Viva Mexico is a semi-documentary. Most of it is uninteresting and, unlike Eisenstein's other films and Tisse's other cinematography, poorly composed. The only parts of real interest come near the end, with the rebellion, something that Eisenstein was used to creating on screen. There is a great gunfight with a woman participating, a precursor to Alexander Nevsky's Vasilisa, and there is a great scene where some rebels are buried up to the shoulders underground and then trampled by horses (by far the best scene in the film). The Day of the Dead celebration is also very interesting. There is also a bullfight that will demonstrate just how cruel bullfighting is.

I do have to complain about the reconstruction that I watched. This was supposed to be a silent film, I believe. The narration I did not mind, for Eisenstein would have had to find a way to communicate what the narrator did anyway. And the music is good, often great. But I object to the insertion of diagetic sound effects, like guns shooting and horses galloping. This is ridiculous. Obviously the only people who are ever going to see this film are Eisenstein enthusiasts, so to try to sell it to the public as a sound movie is ridiculous. Why?

 

El Palacio Negro ( Lecumberri ) (1976) (director y guionista - largometraje documental)

I find very little on the web about this Arturo Ripstein film.  It is a rather day-to-day documentation of the "Palacio Negro", Mexico City's central prison.  Showing new prisoners as they come in ... and all the day to day stuff they do while there.  It may sound dismal and/or boring ... but remember this is not Bollywood and it is a documentary.

 

 
  Raíces (1955)

Plot Summary: Mexican and Latin-American classic. Four independent stories based on writer Francisco Rojas Gonzáles's work, depicting the reality of Mexican indian people: Las Vacas, Nuestra Señora, El Tuerto and La Potranca. In El Tuerto, crosseyed boy is made fun of by his mates. His religious mother asks God to make the boy's eyes equal. The outcome is tragic.

User Comments: Clash between 2 Cultures

Long before the Europeans set foot on America, several Indian cultures flourished, specially in the center of Mexico and down to South America. These groups had astounding knowledges that up till today it is still a mystery as to how they acquired them. This very interesting and very well produced film that used no professional actors, is a very good portrait of what happens when we try to view things prejudiced by our own point of view. This is typically a clash of 2 cultures, the European modernity trying to judge what The "Chamula" Indians in the Southeast part of Mexico had been doing for centuries. It is a clash between pagan and religious beliefs, between desire and pride, between poverty and riches, between faith and reality, between tradition and modernity. It is very interesting to follow the plot of the 4 different stories being narrated. This is a movie that should not be missed by Latin Americans or any one else that wants to understand how the natives lived on this part of the world long before we were "discovered" by the Europeans.

 

 
   
  La Vida no Vale Nada (1955)

Plot Outline: Based on the novel "Mother" by Maxim Gorky. Pablo joins the revolutionaries in his pursuit of social justice. His imprisonment and suffering for the just cause shakes his loving mother, who also joins the revolutionaries.
 
Completed only a few years before the end of his short life, "La Vida No Vale Nada" earned Pedro Infante a Silver Ariel for Mexico's best male performance of 1955. Infante remains the primary reason to see this episodic, somewhat disjointed film. The Mexican star plays Pablo, an illiterate, alcoholic drifter, who has bouts with the bottle and interludes with several women of varying character: a loving widow, a generous professional, his saintly mother, and his father's lusty mistress. While attractive, Infante does not have stereotypical movie-star looks and is convincing as a common man who struggles with existence. Women play a significant role in Pablo's life and offer him redemption, love, and sex, for which he seems to offer little in return. Although he reunites with his mother, he bonds most closely with his beachcomber father, whose destiny he seems fated to follow.

Fortunately, the movie offers opportunities for Infante to sing, and his voice, rich and velvety in tone, provides another reason to see the film. In two scenes, however, the actor sings while he is supposedly intoxicated. Although enjoyable, these sequences are somewhat incredible because his enunciation and notes are perfect despite his inebriation. That a good-looking man with such a rich voice would have to scratch out a living with odd jobs also stretches the plot's believability.

Although others in the cast perform well, the film is Infante's show, and his charm supports its weaker sections. Rogelio Gonzalez's direction is competent, although the transitions from episode to episode at times leave the viewer wondering if scenes were edited out. The IMDb plot outline for this film bears no relation to "La Vida No Vale Nada" and must refer to another film with the same title. Despite its flaws, this often-entertaining film is a showcase for the talents of one of Mexico's greatest stars. Although the movie is not worthy of his talents, "La Vida No Vale Nada" provides a showcase for the dramatic and vocal skills of the great Pedro Infante.

 

 
  El Lugar Sin Límites (1978)
 

Plot Summary:  Family honor, greed, machismo, homophobia, and the dreams of whores collide in a Mexican town. Rich, elderly Don Alejo is poised to sell the town for a profit, needing only to buy a whorehouse to own all the buildings and close the deal. It's owned by a man and his daughter: Manuelita is gay, aging, afraid; he cross-dresses and entertains as a flamenco dancer; he wants to sell and leave. His daughter wants to stay. The return of Pancho complicates things: he's a hothead Alejo tries to control and he scared Manuelita the year before. Things come to a head as Pancho breaks Alejo's hold on him, then flirts and dances with Manuelita and finds himself at risk of being called a "maricón."

What Arturo Ripstein likes to do is put his characters in small isolated places, where the public feels trapped. In this case, the claustrophobic environment is not only the town or the house where the plot evolves, it´s Mexican closed minds. Drama full of unforgettable moments. GOTTA SEE IT!!!