Saturday, December 01, 2018

Roma part 2.

Some more notes on the movie of the year. Alfonso Cuaron is giving us a memory piece and like all memories they are intimate, personal and isolated. Here the director who grew up well off in a rich area of Mexico City in the early 70’s called Roma remembers it well. The family lives in a very large quite ugly house with a carport where their big neglected dog roams free and dumps his doo all over the place.
Cleo the well loved maid and cleaner upper must pick up the doo as part of her duties. This memory piece is really about Cleo played by newcomer Yalitza Aparicio who the children and the mother and grandmother who also lives with them love. Cleo does everything for the four children and she is treated almost as one of the family. This love piece is for her, she is central and center of this movie and in fact Cuaron dedicates the movie to his real nanny Liboria Rodíguez, now seventy-four years old. “For Libo” is the last credit we see.
The father is a doctor. He is like a phantom he appears and then disappears, and eventually he will disappear for good. Cleo meets her problems and fate,with faith and with spirit and is tested when she meets the only villain in the movie who is really horrible.
He does have a nice naked body which we see as he demonstrates his martial arts in the nude for Cleo after they have sex in a rented room. He is the villain and I hated him, his deeds are bad. Cuaron is most likely the youngest child in the film, (he makes poetic statements throughout the film) but it doesn’t really matter.
There are two trips to the movies; one is where Cleo is left stranded after she tells her villain that she thinks she is pregnant. I’ll be right back he says he has to take a wicked pee, and he never comes back. The movie theatre is big and ornate and packed with people watching a silly British army comedy with Terry Thomas. The other movie clip is from “Marooned” an early 70’s space move that the children insist they must see. This time all we see is a short clip of Gene Hackman floating in space and some of us might pick up on this “Gravity” remark from Cuaron.
Mexico City is teeming with activity and humanity, there is not one empty area of space where we can rest, it just flows and pulses. Those of us who are New Yorkers will almost feel comfortable and familiar with this mess, and others will want to get the hell out of it. Cuzon does pans and tracking shots of the city’s busy and collaged streets. The story is intimate and small but with huge startling sequences that are like seeing movies for the first time and realizing what they are capable of doing.
There are set pieces that will be classics (they are already some would say) and will be talked about for years to come. Cleo’s visit to a martial arts training field to tell her villain that she is indeed pregnant, the sad delivery of her child, the Corpus Christi massacre of students and protesters by the army and seen high above in a furniture store as Cleo and the family’s loving grandmother shop for a crib for Cleo’s unborn child, A large New Years family gathering that is surreal with dog heads lining the walls, and a scary fire and a shooting party gone berserk, an earthquake that covers an incubator in a hospital with stones, without harming the baby within. There are others. What is also remarkable is the cinematography, so crisp and black and white, insolated figures far and near in landscapes and beaches.
Intimate little scenes in kitchens where maids and cooks chat and giggle, family quarrels over dinners. The final scene where Cleo climbs a long outdoor staircase to the roof to hang the family’s laundry as an airplane flies overhead. Sounds come to us from all parts of the film and the theatre where we sit transfixed by the absolute beauty of what we are watching. Is that someone in the audience talking no its coming from the movie. Is that crying from the screen or is it from the audience? It’s both. The film should be seen on a big screen in a theatre and not streaming on a t.v. or a God forbid computer screen, but Netflix which “owns” the film has other plans, and right now it is being shown in a few theatres around the country for a short time. I suggest you make plans to see it where it should be seen, on a big screen.


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