My Mexican Bretzel (2019) IFFR 2020

January 30th, 2020
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir.: Nuria Gimenez; Documentary with Ilse G. Ringier, Frank A. Lorang; Spain 2019, 73 min.

“Lies are just another way of telling the truth”.

Spanish first time director/writer/co-editor Nuria Gimenez pulls off one of on of the greatest coup’s in the history of the “Found Films” genre.

My Mexican Bretzel is one of those documentaries where spoilers are unavoidable. Gimenez was clearing out her grandparents’s attic and came across the 8 mm footage of a film shot by grandfather Frank A, Lorang and featuring his wife Ilse G. Ringier who she calls Vivian and Leon Barrett in her film. The other thing to mention is the flowery quotes from a certain guru Kanvar Khajappali, which are spread through the silent footage enlivened by newspaper cuttings that give a time frame.. These are based on fantasy as Kanvar Khajappali never existing. It’s a fascinating story that shows how life can be complicated and messy behind the facade of family respectability.

As the film rolls we meet Nuria’s well-to-do grandparents in their comfortable home in Switzerland where Leon B. had made money from his involvement in a new drug “Lovedyn”. But a flying accident curtailed his activities and caused him chronic pain and Vivian is not keen on the  luxury boat her husband bought, to compensate for the plane, he could never fly again. And when she is allowed to steer the boat he just lets the action roll, to her chagrin, as his obsession behind the camera takes over: “I am fed up with him looking at me through the lens. As if he was aiming at me with a gun, ready to shoot at any time”. Vivian prefers writing but does admit: “I think filming is the best form of self-delusion. And a beautiful way to vanish, and become an animal or God. If you film, you don’t have to live or give explanations.”

Eventually she falls for Leonard or Leo, a Mexican. “I was dragged towards him without thought or willpower. I feel guilty for not feeling guilty”. After a brief affair with Leo she flies back to meet her husband in New York. Vivian and Leon go on living together, but Leo remains the elephant in the room. Later Vivian notices that a friend of theirs, Olivia, is wearing the bracelet Leon gave her some time previously. And she gravitates back to Leo again. “I want to be young again and be with Leo.”

Meanwhile Leon makes up for his lack of desire for her with excessive bouts of attention. Vivian becomes obsessed with death, dreaming she would die on the same day as Pope Pius XII. But when his death is announced in October 1958, Vivian is still resolutely alive and holidaying in Venice.

This is an audacious retelling of a woman’s true story through the 1940s to the end of the 1960s. On the face of it, Vivian/Ilse seems to have the best of both worlds – her life is materially rich, but lacking in emotional fulfilment. And although the couple enjoy their endless trips around the world, the constant movement seems to point to a lack a spiritual serenity or any real meaning – echoed in the meaningless Khajappali quotes.

Gimenez creates a story from images these revealing images, discovering her family heritage quite by chance. My Mexican Bretzel is a little gem, winning Best Film in the “Found Film” section of the IFF Rotterdam 2020. AS




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