The Enchantment of Mexican Cinema
By Christie Seeley
Recently a friend asked me to recommend films that were beautiful and yet not sad. That was a complex request. Beauty for me involves poignancy. The movies Mr. Pig, and Roma, are among those I chose. These are not sad movies. They are movies that portray life, period, like the song Mr. Bojangles.
The first time I heard the song Mr. Bojangles performed was at the Circle Star Theater in San Bruno, California, by none other than Sammy Davis Jr. Needless to say, I was impressed by his entire performance. Nevertheless, I couldn't tell you any other piece he performed, but Mr. Bojangles will live on forever in my memory. When I heard it interpreted by Nina Simone as part of the great soundtrack of one of the movies, Mr. Pig starring Danny Glover and Maya Rudolph, all of the feeling came back. If you have a heart and have not yet seen this film, do so. The story reveals a lifetime of feeling told in one short road trip. Danny Glover will involve you in his story, and while you may at times see his character's shortcomings, he will pull you in with his touching humanity. The film is written and directed by Mexico City's talented Diego Luna. The filming is stunning as Glover travels for the last time through Mexico to find a home for the last of his prize hogs at pristine Playa Majahuitas Beach just south of Puerto Vallarta. Another beautiful and provocative song in this film is "My Autumn's Done Come" by Lee Hazlewood. It will move even the hardest heart. By the way, locals of Majahuitas can tell you tales of transporting the impressive hog who played in this production in their water taxis to filming sessions!
My attraction to Alfonso Cuarón's film Roma is a bit different and perhaps very personal. Again it hits a particular chord for me. The film takes place in Mexico City at around the time my daughter was born in Mexico. Her father was born and raised in Mexico City, and her grandfather still lived in a home very similar to the one in Colonia Roma of Cuarón's film. The portrayal of the middle class, Mexico City life, was so on the spot that I could not help but be transported into the family's drama. The indigenous actors were beautiful in their portrayal of the family "staff" and their relationship to the family. Theirs is a land of its own, between the worlds they left behind and not entirely accepted in the new one. Again, the artistic filming blew me away, especially the rooftop scene revealing the family's different worlds below and the women who shared the home as employees. The closeness and yet the distance between them is extremely telling. Released in 2018, Roma is the recipient of many well-deserved awards.
Whether on Netflix or other online sources or in the theater as that again becomes possible, I will continue to turn my imagination over to the transforming world of cinema. I hope you will too!