Flowing nearly seamlessly back and forth between absurdist comedy and deafening sadness, Geraldo Naranjo's rather Godardian-named Drama/Mex, may very well be a big fat fuck you to many of his fellow Mexican New Wavers who have so gregariously hopped upon the bandwagon of Hollywood stardom. Refusing to sell-out, as many believe (rightly or wrongly) his fellow countrymen Alejandro González Iñárritu, Alfonso Cuarón and Guillermo del Toro to have done (they were even re-named "The Three Amigos" by the American paparazzi and Hollywood glitteratti, who somehow managed to forget that there are about another half dozen or so filmmakers linked into the Mexican New Wave movement), Naranjo, who co-wrote and starred in the Azazel Jacobs helmed avant-pop indie The GoodTimesKid earlier this year (perhaps cementing his Earthen-bound roots), has created a small (read: claustrophobically intimate) work of cinematic art that pretty much epitomizes the whole idea of a new wave movement (in any country). Modest yet daring. Amateur yet virtuosic. Dirty yet unadulterated. Cinematic yet very personal.
Telling the story of Fernanda, a stunningly beautiful yet very lonely girl, compensating for the lack of a father by falling into loveless (or at least lust-confused) sexual relationships with a bad-boy rabscallion named Chano and an overly sensitive romantic named Gonzo, and Jaime, a bit-past middle-aged man who is suicidal at the thought of having had a sexual relationship with his teenage daughter for who-knows-how-long and his possible redemptive wouldbe saviour, a teen hustler-in-training (hooker with a heart of gold anybody?) named Tigrillo. These two stories, while told seperately, are intertwined through crossover characters and coincidental similarities. A narrative technique which certainly brings about an inevitable comparison with Iñárritu's near-masterpiece (and the probable 400 Blows and/or Breathless of the still burgeoning Mexican New Wave) Amores perros. Naranjo's film though is perhaps less gutteral and more lyrical than Iñárritu's. Whereas Amores perros is a hard-edged treatise on societal inconsistencies, Drama/Mex is a somewhat tender, if not a bit softened, look at many a lost soul. Whereas Amores perros is pessimistic in its grim outlook, Drama/Mex is oddly optimistic, even in the light of such utter despair.
Played with intermittent moments of blaise melancholy and fervent aplomb by both the cast and their director, Drama/Mex (a possible play on Godard's Masculin-Feminin ?) has no delusions of grandeur, yet at the same time gives a sly wink and nod to the cinematic tradition (both Mexican and international) that has come before it. Opening with a long prelude of Fernanda and Chano bickering over past indiscretions which leads to the best damn hate-fuck I've ever seen on film, Naranjo's camera (his Kino-eye perhaps) weaves through its landscape with the ease of one's own eye looking at itself in the mirror. The finale, which could have easily been shot by Fellini himself, has the camera pan across an early morning beach as night's final revelers frolic about, a just awakening Fernanda and her lover upon the sand and Jaime watching it all go by. With such an eye for cinematic tradition, even in a film of such modernity, I half expected to see Marcello Mastroianni walk on screen, gesture to the beautiful Fernanda and walk off into the sunrise. [07/14/07]