Mexican cinema has always sin of emblematic. It assumes a figure, projects itself into it, exploits it to the point of selling not only identity but coffee, dye, credit cards, as was the case of María Félix, who as a survivor of the golden age of Mexican cinema knew how to sell herself as a monument living of a glory (past) that survived imposing everything, above all, not as a role model but as a figure of authority: to drink Nescafe or dye your hair with Miss Clairol or emulate her or you looked more like her . María Félix told you on the screen what to do, or rather, what to buy, and you obeyed her. Something similar happened with Ignacio López Tarso or Anthony Quinn. And it's not that the golden age of Mexican cinema was over, it just changed strategies and apparatus, it became television. The mystery that has been cultivated around Pedro Infante's death by plane is comparable to the patina that he wanted to give to the formulas and production of the national cinema of the forties and fifties that was broadcast on open television to fill the programming.
You long for a time for the imaginary that generated or for an industry that was still buoyant at the end of the fifties, when television appears and suffers a crisis (however much the cinema was in color when television was still blank and black) to undergo a transformation in its uses, to be relegated. On the one hand, the cinema became an extension where we could see ourselves in the dark with Silvia Pinal, Capulina, Angélica María, Enrique Guzmán and other television stars and on the other, under the protection of saints like Buñuel and Eisenstein, combative, critical, one side of realism that would bring us on the one hand the Mexican author cinema (that goes and walks in the festivals) and on the other, the cinema of ficheras (which later became videohome).
Since then, however much one would want to sell as an event - he had to sell himself as such- whose actuality was determined on the one hand by the number of weeks in theaters, and then, for the time that would exist between the premiere in the theater and the premiere on television, passing without seeing the technologies and formats that have become obsolete compared to the portability of the artifacts and the network availability of audiovisual content, we can say that, when that period does not exist or is minimal, as it was with the Netflix premiere of Rome, the film in which Alfonso Cuarón portrays his petite bourgeois childhood in a neighborhood of Mexico City, the national exhibitors (who have extended their tentacles towards production and distribution) refused to take on the expenses to release the film in its rooms, which, however eventual, could be seen a week later on television through the platform of training services that produced it.
The reactions to the refusal of the exhibitors did not wait. A call was made through social networks so that we would be in solidarity with Alfonso Cuarón supporting him with exhibition halls or a space that was adequate to project the film. Any expectation that (you) had about this Rome, of its costs and production process, which goes from the mannerist vocation (light, more light, truth light!) that involves flying the roofs of his family's house in Tepeji Street to illuminate the old one, the gossip about the delays, the negotiations and the stubbornness that would lead him to carry out his most personal project, changed with that fraternal gesture of solidarity that emerged at the national level. I can not help but be amazed by the drag that it reached as a cultural phenomenon when the doors of the big exhibitors were closed. Watch Rome on the big screen it became a slogan, something that had to be done, in one way or another. The tickets sold out quickly in the few rooms in which it was exhibited, making it a privilege, or rather, an act that had to attend to see and be seen. Some will stay at home to see her, or go to a friend's house if she had Netflix.
It is significant that with this latest appropriation - the cinema that became television - the cinema has returned to theaters to make a difference. Much more now that television has become - again and triumphantly- At the cinema. No refunds, the tropicalized version that Eugenio Derbez made of Kramer vs. Kramer it had reopened the way for figures, formulas and television content to the cinemas. In the last three years, more than five hundred films have been produced in Mexico. Nothing else in 2018 produced one hundred and eighty four (according to numbers given by the IMCINE), figure that marks a milestone in the national production. Some fifty more than in 1958, with rancheras and melodramas still in full swing. Of those hundred and fifty-eight, according to the Canacine, one hundred and sixteen were released.
It's an impressive number and almost -I would say- scandalous: what are these one hundred and eighty films? Who made them and for what? Who saw them and who will see them? There is enough room for internet sites to present us with lists of up to twenty films. According to the Canacine, the blockbusters were family and romantic comedies. We'll see, made with the same maternal Kramer vs. Kramer by Pedro Pablo Ibarra (who comes from making Capadocias and Ingobernables), he entered the box office more than fourteen million dollars, Valentina's Wedding, bilingual altarpiece of cultural clashes led by Marco Polo Constandse (who started working with Robert Rodriguez) won just under three million dollars and A woman without a filter, quasi-feminist vehicle of Luis Eduardo Reyes (who started as screenwriter for Silvia Pinal) just over five million. More than the spectrum of productions, which is still general, what is significant is that people want to leave their homes to watch content escaped from television. And it is obvious that what interests them to go to the movies is to have a good time. Its precedents do not cease to be local whereas the precedents of Rome and the social, cultural and political consequences that it has brought with it come from another side, from the same side to which Alfonso Cuarón and Emmanuel Lubeski went, and which were also taken away to Yalitza Aparicio. The whole apparatus, the visual display, the references and the tributes -even black and white- they are inscribed in a universality that transcends Hollywood. What is it that sells us? I suppose a substitute for identity (not coffee). What will sell us? It remains to be seen.
Ricardo Pohlenz He is a film critic.