Dir.: Alonso Ruizpalacios; Cast: Sebastian Aguirre, Tenoch Huerta, IIlse Salas, Leonardo Ortizgris
Mexico 2014, 106 min.
When Tomas (Aguirre), a rebellious teenager from Veracruz, is sent to study in Mexico city with his big brother Sombra (Huerta), his family back home could not have foreseen the chaos he would encounter. Living in a soulless high rise block, Sombra, buries himself in his ‘thesis’ with a great deal of white noise. Whilst the students in Mexico City are on strike, Sombra and his flat mate Santos (Ortizgris) have declared themselves “on strike from the strike”, they steal electricity from their neighbours and escape in an old car on a journey that leads nowhere, but is vibrant and emotionally all-consuming.
Ruizpalacios’ debut film is the closest to “Nouvelle Vague” we’ve seen for a long time. The monochrome camera is inventive, bordering on the manic, the actors don’t take themselves very seriously, neither does the director: occasionally darting into the frame, he asks the actors what they think about the script (“not very much”), and criticise contemporary Mexican cinema, “where they grab beggars from the street, film in black and white and try to impress French critics.”
GÜEROS has a loosely structured narrative. There are some interesting subplots but overall the actors get more or less lost in the big city. The men are later joined by Ana, one of the student’s leaders, adored by the very shy Sombra. Avoiding tidy solutions to anything, the director keeps the emotional level very high, always engaging the audience: the small, mostly aborted missions they embark on give the film enough drive. And there are always new surprises: when the four of them visit the Zoo, Ana shows Sombra a tiger. But Sombra suffers from panic attacks and is plagued by tigers in his nightmares – and quotes a Rilke poem about a caged panther. The reason for their Zoo visit is Epigmenio Cruz, a singer, the brothers’ father adored. But Cruz is an alcoholic, and the stories told about him – he made Bob Dylan cry – are much more interesting than the man himself.
There is a nice elliptic structure to the film: it starts with Tomas throwing a balloon filled with water from a roof terrace in Veracuz, hitting a baby in the pram; later the quartet find themselves lost in a rough neighbourhood in Mexico City, and a kid throws a brick from a bridge, shattering the windscreen of their car. DOP Damian Garcia very zooms in very close, and sometimes, like in a scene were Sombra imagines a snow storm in the car, Garcia blurs the edges of the image, as in films of the silent era. The acting is spontaneous with humour echoing the early short film collaborations of Truffaut and Godard, before they became serious. Filmaking feels like fun for Ruizpalacios and his cast. AS
LFF 9.10. 18.30 NFT3, 12.10. 18.30 Ritzy
THE LONDON FILM FESTIVAL RUNS FROM 9-19 OCTOBER 2014