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Thursday, October 28, 2010

EL COMPADRE MENDOZA (1934)

The second film in Fernando de Fuentes’ ‘Revolution Trilogy’ (stand-alone films on Zapata’s war against the Mexican government in the ‘teens) centers on the convenient loyalties of a wealthy land-owner who opens his arms, and his comfortable hacienda, to whomever is currently in charge.. He forms a special bond with a gentlemanly Zapata general, and even makes him godfather to his son, never suspecting that a chaste love has developed between his much younger wife and the handsome young officer. But when the war turns decisively against the rebels, cheerleading neutrality will no longer suffice. The future may hang on which friends you have helped last. Compared to the last of the three films, VAMONOS CON PANCHO VILLA!, made only two years later, de Fuentes’s filmmaking skills seem rudimentary. The visual look is stagy & presentational, as is the acting, and the story doesn’t feel inevitable. It’s possible that working with a great cinematographer like Gabriel Figueroa made some of the difference on the later film, but that can’t be the whole explanation. Perhaps the first film in the trilogy (PRISONER 13/’33) makes a better case for itself.

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