January 23, 2003
Y tu Mama Tambien

I was going to write something about how much I loved Y Tu Mama Tambien ("And your mother") because it's one of the few films I've seen lately that's actually movied me to tears, but then yesterday an earthquake hit Mexico and my feelings were radically undermined.

I called my filmschool-friend Mutante to make sure he was okay and woke him from a sound & pleasant sleep. I don't know what disturbed him more, the idea that I had woken him with news that an earthquake had hit his country and killed 20+ people, or my subsequent enthusiasm about Y tu Mama. At any rate, I was told - in no uncertain terms - that it was a most unwanted one-two punch.

According to Mutante, liking Y tu Mama is tantamount to liking Threesome. He said if I spoke Spanish well enough to detect the accents of the lead characters I would have realized how terribly annoying they were. He said "please don't tell me you like that movie!" about five times, because it was every lazy-brained trend in Mexican cinema crunched into one loathsomely unfunny, pretentious pile of poop. I wouldn't know this, as I've only seen maybe four Mexican films in my life, but I was happy to learn.

I learned that the director, who I imagined to be a progressive young politico (who was nevertheless somehow now at work on a Harry Potter movie?), was actually a macho big-mouth who makes a point of bringing up how hot his wife is in all his interviews. To Mutante, the film failed on all counts, though he was mostly infuriated about the way in which it ended - saying it was standard, unthinking cheeseball logic. He simply hated all the characters and what ended up happening to them.

Our disagreement was interesting. I thought this movie really got the politics and style of a delicious french new wave film and applied them to the American dumping ground that is Mexico. It possessed a degree of realism that few Canadian films - maybe none (since, perhaps, Mon Oncle Antoine?) have even come close to approaching. Maybe I just have too much of a soft spot for coming of age films, or maybe - as I'm starting to think - my initial impression was ill-informed.

I planned on saying Y tu Mama Tambien was among the best films I'd seen recently, alongside The Believer (and others that I'll write about, er, tomorrow,) but now I'm inclined to go with Mutante's take and say: "Disappointingly obvious in a Mexican-cinema type way".

Posted by at January 23, 2003 04:31 PM

I gotta' go with Mutante on this one -- that film was a total disappointment. the characters were annoying, and the climax (if you'll pardon the pun) was anticlimactic -- not to mention that the audience at the Cumberland groaned in disgust, to my utter shock and dismay!

that said, the voice-over bits had some wonderful moments in which friendship, social class, and Mexican culture were celebrated and critiqued. the moment when Tenoch passes the town where his nanny grew up, and thinks of the fact that he called her Mom until he was 4, touched me and pushed me to rethink the way I had considered his relationship with her earlier. the bits about the way the boys act when they're in each other's houses is a testament not only to the disparity of social classes, but also to the effect that disparity has on these boys' friendship (there will always be an unspoken chasm between them). and the shots of the Mexican countryside are lovely.

the problem was that for all the loveliness of those moments, they were too few and far between in a story that was trite, boring, predictable and annoying, making it not really worth the 2 hours spent watching.
Now perhaps my understanding of this comes from having understood the language too? Mutante is right -- they sound annoying. But that's something that gets lost in translation.

those voice-over moments still pop into my head sometime, though, so the film was not a total throw-away.

also, please tell me more about this earthquake. where did it hit?

Posted by: marijke on January 23, 2003 06:39 PM .

well, I think i just hate having to live with those kinds of narratives and no other option. i hate seeing films which receive funding from the government reinforce machismo. why is it that no characters in mexican cinema can be mature enough to come to terms with their drooling sexual issues and then move on, instead of moving on in denial? when will this country mature?

there is a discourse in Y Tu Mama Tambien which shows its head frequently in mexican cinema. in a film from a couple of years back, Sexo, Pudor y Lagrimas (Antonio Serrano), which at the moment became the biggest mexican box office hit ever, two characters who have been living abroad for years return to mexico, meet up with old friends and their presence supposedly stirs up a big change on their friends' sexual lives. by the end of the film, once their friends' lives have been altered forever and all that, the girl who had been living in africa and who had precipitated the divorce of her friends after she had seen him rape his wife in a coke fit has to leave mexico; the guy who travelled around the world and had made his friends deal with carlito's impotency takes a step into the elevator shaft. characters who throw some light on the sexual misery of mexican characters/society cannot remain in mexico. leave or die. die of womb cancer, ana verdu! as a spectator of mexican films, i cannot but wonder what kind of death awaits the next character with "foreign" ideas on the screen.

also, i believe the only word to describe the camera work in Y Tu Mama Tambien is 'lazy'. and i might be the migraine kid but i never laughed at any of the jokes in that film.

i have to admit though, that the old lady who breaks into a dance to the tune on the radio made me laugh well in to the next scene, and i could live a happy life if i could wake up every morning, grab the remote control, press play and watch again the shot of the pigs at the beach.

, i admit i might not be the most detached viewer (i'm in mexico). nonetheless, the politics of the film are undeniably conservative.

Posted by: mutante on January 23, 2003 06:50 PM .

Hey Mutante - do you know where that earthquake hit? A Globe & Mail Report. (will be good for a day or two more.)

Posted by: on January 23, 2003 07:21 PM .

To ask a question with spoilers: Would either of you have liked the movie anymore if the girl didn't die and the guys ended up staying friends/becoming lovers in the end?

I see how it's conservative, but to me, the whole premise that machismo is nothing more than repressed homosexuality is as progressive a theme as you're likely to find in whatever racey indie film of the moment - the wretched "L.I.E." (which was, somehow, the Village Voice's pick for "movie of the year"), or any open attempt at subversity by Greg Araki, etc.

What of the argument that says Catharsis triggers a release in the audience that obliterates all the tension the work has generated? This line of reason implies that a work containing a character who returns to the repressed state they began in (thus denying themselves any real release) is anything but conservative - in that all the tension a film might generate remains where it has accumulated - between the viewer's shoulderblades. Theoretically, this provides a clear impression of how destructive a character's cowardice has been (and then, the film theorist might posit, the viewer applies it to their own life and becomes liberated. But this was the part of film school that always made my eyeballs roll - even though I do feel like certain movies did something to liberate me - like Porky's for instance).

I can understand Mutante, that if this is just the trend that all movies are obeying in your country, it must be a bitch. I have misgivings about the 'unwatchability' trend in Canadian cinema pioneered by Cronenberg/McDonald/McKeller/Egoyan, and, oh, I don't know, you name 'em! I resent the fact that I don't care enough about their work to even bother renting it, let alone paying the $10 at the movie theatre.

If I were to attack the film, I might say that I thought the whole idea that a woman as compelling as her, in the situation she was in (betrayed and on the brink of death) would want to go off to 'Heaven's Mouth' with two teenage boys. But somehow I bought it. (I'll admit, I thought when she got down on her knees to give them both head it teetered into the realm of male fantasy - but it also fit with her as a character for me ["there's no pleasure like giving pleasure" and her own vested interest in getting them to hump].)

Anyway, I'm sorry all your foreign characters have to die, Mutante. That sucks. And I'm sorry for not just giving up and saying this movie was outright bad. But I thought the fact that the two boys were a bit overwhelmed (over the fact that one of them had screwed the other's mother, the fact that they'd screwed each other, the fact that they'd both screwed each other's girlfriends, and the fact they'd gotten drunk enough to tell each other about it) was funny, and relatively easy to understand. If that's a conservative film - what can I say, your country is kicking our country's arse! (This comes as little surprise, as you sweat it out on the streets year round, and we hibernate in our cocoons 7 months at a time...)

Posted by: on January 23, 2003 08:13 PM .

Fine - so my questions are stupid and my ideas are wrong - so this movie is nothing more than macho male fantasy disguised as a sociological undertaking of Mexico? So I don't know what I'm talking about?! You wanna make something of it?!

Posted by: on January 24, 2003 06:58 PM .

hey mutante, on the count of three, let's both poke really hard.

I bet we can make him cry!

Posted by: marijke on January 24, 2003 07:45 PM .

if a filmmaker uses images of lust and throws in all this sexual content to tell a conservative tale, doesn't that make the film doubly conservative?

Posted by: mutante on February 10, 2003 03:17 PM .

Okay, you guys are making me cry now. That question is making my brain hurt, Mutante, and will continue to do so throughout the afternoon.

Posted by: on February 10, 2003 05:17 PM .

, you'll be happy to know (if you didn't already) that Y Tu Mam was nominated for an Oscar for best original screenplay . Though, if it beats Talk to Her, I think I'll cry.

Speaking of Talk to Her, why the hell wasn't it nominated for best foreign film? Almodvar was at the top of his game with this one...

Posted by: marijke on February 11, 2003 02:15 PM .

I guess the fact his movie is "Oscar Worthy" means that Mutante & Marijke are right.

I haven't checked out an Almodovar movie in maybe 6 or 7 years. I'll get right on it...

Posted by: on February 11, 2003 03:58 PM .

and isn't it funny that a film which is obviously based on 'three of hearts' which is just another version of 'threesome' which is just a juvenile spin on 'jules et jim' is nominated in the original screenplay category?

Posted by: mutante on February 12, 2003 02:28 PM .

You guys won't stop!

Seriously though Mutante, that question (your previous one) is still making my head hurt. I'm inclined to think that any film where a woman gets teenagers thinking about their anuses can't be too conservative - in a relative sense - but I'm also inclined to defer to you when it comes to Mexican cinema - ah shit - cinema on the whole.

So, I hereby give up on defending this movie. Like I said up top, it's "disappointingly obvious in a Mexican-cinema type way". I'm convinced! It's conservative propaganda! (Which doesn't mean I didn't enjoy it...)

Out of curiousity, have either of you two seen any of his other films? Are they equally "bad"?

Posted by: on February 12, 2003 03:34 PM .

i have seen neither 'the little princess' nor 'great expectations'. i did see his first feature, 'solo con tu pareja', which i believe in canada is called 'love in the times of hysteria' and it stinks. a little casanova ends up having two dates on the same night, one in his appartment and one in his neighbors and jumps from bed to bed all night until one of the two girls gets mad at the guy and, since she is the nurse at his clinic, gives him a positive in his AIDS test. that's the first half of the movie.

in the second half he wants to kill himself by sticking his head in the microwave.

of course he doesn't kill himself, and by the end of the movie he is already married to his stewardess neighbor. while at the airport to get on a plane he checks out this blonde chick. on the next scene, while on the plane, his wife explaining how to use the oxygen mask in case of emergency, he can't get his eyes off the blonde, and then while he stares at the camera he pulls a condom out of his jacket pocket and then he grins. fade to black. check it out!

Posted by: mutante on February 12, 2003 10:47 PM .

That boy's about as sharp as a pound of wet liver
-- Foghorn Leghorn

Posted by: Party Poker on November 4, 2004 08:02 PM .
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