Sep 30, 2008

NY Film Festival: I'm Going to Explode

We had a pretty good run with the first three movies we saw: The Class, Hunger and 24 City. These were films made by solid, talented, mature filmmakers. These are films that open your eyes to the world, that expand your horizons. Then came this appalling mediocrity from Mexico.
I guess that the selection committee was somehow charmed by the gall of a young filmmaker trying to do his own little version of Godard (Pierrot Le Fou, to be exact). There is nothing wrong with paying homage to your house gods of cinema, but if you are, you better have the decency to rise to the occasion. Unfortunately, I'm Going to Explode is a puerile, intellectually lazy, badly written, horribly cast, utter waste of time.
L'amour fou capers with two rebellious lovers have been done with far more panache, by Godard himself (Breathless), or in movies like Bonnie and Clyde. It is a small genre in itself. The irrational plays a big part in it. However, in this iteration, the irrational is also accompanied by the ludicrous and the stupid, to a point of insulting the intelligence of the audience with lazy, manipulative choices. For instance, one night the kids are found out in their hideout but the woman who finds them says nothing. Why? Who knows. There is no reason, except to keep the silly story going. In another awful scene, a bystander asks a horribly hemorrhaging character "what is wrong with you?" over and over. Does the filmmaker think that Mexicans are that stupid or does he not know how to write dialog? Or both?
One of the main problems of the film is that the two teenagers that play the lovers are utterly insufferable and vapid. So instead of rooting for them you want them to die; the quicker, the better. They are not given any intelligent or witty dialog nor are they resourceful enough actors to make any kind of mark. They not only have zero chemistry together. I actually think they have anti-chemistry. The more you see them, the more you loathe them. Their escapade, the most original part of which is that they are literally too close to home, seems more like an idiotic spoiled brat tantrum than something grounded on psychological reality. The kid is the son of a, guess what, corrupt right wing politico, and he is a little snotty sociopath. To our endless misfortune, Jean Paul Belmondo he ain't. He is a cipher, and totally incapable of charm. His consort is a girl with a grating tone of voice (she speaks like an entitled Mexico City rich girl, even though she is supposed to be from the colonial town of Guanajuato). They are both totally underwritten characters. There is no arc, there is no subtext, there is no motive, no nuance. The movie is at the level of a sketch. It plays like a first draft. It is all a pointless exercise in style.
I wonder what is happening in Mexico that consistently prevents Mexican cinema from maturing and breaking out. There have been several good movies (Amores perros, Y tu mamá también, which already happened a while ago, Temporada de patos, La zona), but unlike the push that quality cinema is having in other similarly economically challenged countries (Argentina, Korea, Israel), Mexican cinema cannot get out of its rut.
I think its a bigger problem than lack of funds or a total drought of good screenwriters. It's the nature of the place itself, where the upper middle class are so spoiled and sheltered from reality that they never grow up, and for the most part, these are the movies they make.

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