A still from the Mexican film ‘The Unknown Gendarme’ (1941). Courtesy UNAM Film Library
So much has been heard about Mexican cinema, but very often little has been seen. When talking about the golden age of national cinema, the first names that come to mind are Emilio El Indio Fernández, Germán Valdés, better known as Tin Tan; María Félix, Pedro Infante and Silvia Pinal, to name a few. However, these names and some of their films are usually a constant in the collective memory that, in some cases, even becomes repetitive. With the intention of leaving the canon, the retrospective called Daily Show – The different seasons of popular Mexican cinema is presented, which consists of 36 films, which has been included in the programming of the Locarno Film Festival, in Switzerland, one of the most prestigious, to publicize unusual works, rarities and forgotten authors from the forties, fifties and sixties.
The retrospective, which was part of the 76th edition of the Swiss film event —which ends on August 12—, is an exploration of three decades of extraordinary creativity in which gods and goddesses of the seventh art were erected, as well as singular filmmakers who They have known how to transcend time. Each year, Locarno dedicates a section of its programming to honor and revive films from the past so that they reach new senses of contemporary audiences.
Olaf Möller, programmer and film critic, was one of the specialists in charge of curating the show, together with fellow critic Roberto Turigliatto and the director of the Film Library of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), Hugo Villa, in a process that took them two years, approximately, as revealed to the Variety portal.
How does the name Espectáculo a diario come from? Möller explains that he is associated with the Arena de México and the culture of lucha libre, which became popular in the 1950s, but it wasn’t until the appearance of El Santo that the genre became glorified. In this way, the spectacle of the cinema and the struggles quickly found each other. “The name of the retrospective comes from the idea that wrestling, like bullfighting and cinema, are everyday activities. I find this conception highly seductive, because we want to reiterate the idea that cinema was not something detached from the rest. In essence, it is the celebration of the genius of popular art, of the common people. That was the heart of our program”, explains Möller in a conversation within the framework of the festival.
The Italian actress Maura Monti in the film ‘The Bat Woman’ (1968). Courtesy UNAM Film Library
Daily show brings together great classics from the golden age and after it, from various genres such as comedy, melodrama, film noir, among others. Thus, films like El gendarme desconocido (1941) by Miguel M. Delgado, starring Mario Moreno Cantinflas, a film with which the two began a partnership that resulted in 33 productions together; o They have killed Tongolele (1948) by Roberto Gavaldón, one of the most prolific directors of Mexican cinema, who also produced Autumn Days (1963) and La noche avanza (1952); and Luis Buñuel’s El río y la muerte (1955), a film that was part of the official selection of the Venice Festival in 1954, are some of the films that accompanied this exhibition.
The director of the UNAM Film Library says that it is a sample of Mexican cinema with the most important heritage coming out of the country. The idea was to move away from the classics of Indio Fernández, Ismael Rodríguez, Buñuel’s “big girls”, the famous ones by Gilberto Martínez Solares in his duo with Tin Tan. “We have learned about classic Mexican cinema through television. Until about five or six years ago, television did not actively approach movies that were that, beyond the canon. What we saw was a lot of cinema that otherwise would not find a place”, adds Villa.
Other titles included in the exhibition are, May God forgive me (1947), by Tito Davison, starring María Félix, in the role of a sinister and seductive spy; the film The bat woman (1968) by René Cardona, with the Italian actress Maura Monti playing an intrepid and seductive heroine or the cinema of fighters with Santo against the vampire women (1962) by Alfonso Corona Blake, in which characters parade today already cult: the silver masked man himself, Lorena Velázquez, María Duval and Guillermo Hernández Lobo Negro, among others.
A frame from the film ‘Santo against the vampire women’ (1962). Courtesy of UNAM Film Library
Villa says that a first list of the sample included 90 films, of which the ones that had conditions to travel, to digitize or if there were 35 mm copies suitable for transfer to Switzerland were evaluated. The tapes come from the archive of the Filmoteca, 20, and the other 16 from collections such as the Mexican Institute of Cinematography (IMCINE) and the Cineteca Nacional.
Institutional collaboration was key, Villa admits, as with The Case of the Murdered Woman (1955) starring Gloria Marín and Abel Salazar, which was a special request from the organizers. TV Azteca owns the rights, the negatives are deposited in the Cineteca and it was thus that the Churubusco studios also collaborated with the digitization of a copy of the film. In addition, IMCINE covered the costs of translating the dialogues into subtitles in English, French and Italian.
“It was like a shared adventure that is very useful and very fertile, because what it gives is the possibility that from now on those 36, and some more, will meet audiences in Mexico again. So I think it’s also a virtuous and lucky time; And, of course, we will see the fruit of this in a couple of years, at least”, specifies the director of the UNAM Film Library.
The films that are part of the Daily Show will continue their tour of Switzerland in venues such as the Cineteca Nacional of that country, which celebrated its 75th anniversary in Locarno, and in others such as the Kino Filmpodium, in Zurich, or the Cine Rex, in Bern. For now in Mexico, El espejo de la bruja (1962), by Chano Urueta; Stronger than love (1955), by Tulio Demicheli; The skeleton of Mrs. Morales (1969), by Rogelio A. González, and The Bat Woman, four films that are included in the sample, are available on the Mubi platform.
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