July 06 – July 20

SEVEN CIRCLES SOUTH OF THE BORDER: MEXICAN NOIR

This revelatory season of imported prints showcases cine negro, a treasure trove of stylish, moody and suspenseful films noir from 1940s and 1950s Mexico, highlighting that country’s own classic studio era of quality filmmaking.

With rich chiaroscuro, fatalist narratives and vice-like suspense, the work of directors such as Roberto Gavaldón, Julio Bracho and Alejandro Galindo easily rivals the better-known work north of the border. Despite the obvious shared elements, these Mexican masterpieces are distinctly different to Hollywood noir. As Museum of Modern Art curator Dave Kehr notes, “American noir is largely a product of war trauma; Mexican noir of economic trauma”. Heroes of Mexican noir are desperate strivers struggling to make it against a corrupt state and corporate collusion. In particular, the threat of poetically just punishment looms over the protagonists, exemplified by the brutal ending of Gavaldón’s Night Falls.

Oppressive shadows, accusatory mirrors, cage-like geometric framings—these films contain the essence of noir, but with amped up melodrama. Even so, as the highlighted work of Gavaldón shows, there is a technical elegance and aura of quality that surrounds them, aided by master cinematographers such as Gabriel Figueroa and Alex Phillips working within the world-class Estudios Churubusco Azteca. Only recently made available in restored and subtitled prints, this season is a tantalising glimpse of a rich depository of international filmmaking.

July 06

7:00PM – IN THE PALM OF YOUR HAND

Roberto Gavaldón
 (1951) 113 mins
Unclassified 15+ Unless accompanied by an adult

One of a crop of recently recovered gems from the “golden age” of Mexican classical cinema, Gavaldón’s pitch-black cine negro adopts themes (economic downturn, duplicitous women and foolish, desperate men) common to its noir cousins north of the border, but has a lush, poetically sonorous approach to genre that stands in counterpoint to Hollywood at the time. Arturo de Córdova plays a hack fortune teller and peeping tom who gradually becomes entranced by black widow Ada Romano (Leticia Palma) who, in a fit of spellbound pulp poetry, is likened to a “secret waterfall of death”.

Digital Restoration courtesy of the Filmoteca UNAM.


9:05PM – THE OTHER ONE

Roberto Gavaldón
 (1946) 98 mins
Unclassified 15+ Unless accompanied by an adult

A high point in the partnership between Dolores Del Río and Gavaldón, this tale of sibling jealousy and murder is a suspense classic. Del Río excels in her dual roles as twins, one rich, the other poor, the latter assuming the former’s life and loves after summarily dispatching her. The tormented narrative is matched by exquisitely oppressive set design (Gunther Gerszo) and terrific support from actors Víctor Junco and Agustín Irusta. The story by Rian James was adapted almost 20 years later as the basis for the Bette Davis vehicle Dead Ringer.

Digital Restoration courtesy of the Filmoteca UNAM.

July 13

7:00PM – ANOTHER DAWN

Julio Bracho
 (1943) 106 mins
Unclassified 15+ Unless accompanied by an adult

A union activist on the run (Pedro Armendáriz) is aided by a former lover (Andrea Palma, the director’s sister and a major star of Mexican cinema) now unhappily married to a mutual college friend. Adapted from a play by expatriate Frenchman Max Aub—with peculiar similarities to Casablanca, released the same year—this nascent film noir clings to the doomed romanticism of poetic realism, even while Gabriel Figueroa’s astounding cinematography is inching towards the truly dark fatalism of postwar noir.


Digital Restoration courtesy of the Filmoteca UNAM.

9:00PM – NIGHT FALLS
Roberto Gavaldón
 (1952) 85 mins
Unclassified 15+ Unless accompanied by an adult

Popular leading actor Pedro Armendáriz plays against type as Marcos, a rising pelota (Mexican ball-sport) champion otherwise known for his rampant womanising. After a young society woman falls pregnant to Marcos the arrogant athlete becomes embroiled in a blackmail revenge plot involving the Mob. Exquisite black-and-white cinematography boldly renders this sordid noir-inspired vision of the corrupt world of gambling and gangsters around Mexico City’s famous Frontón arena. Adapted from a short story by the novelist Luis Spota (In the Palm of Your Hand).

Digital Restoration courtesy of the Filmoteca UNAM.

July 20

7:00PM – DEVIL’S MONEY
Alejandro Galindo
 (1953) 85 mins
Unclassified 15+ Unless accompanied by an adult

A demimonde of stolen money, dangerous romance and questionable morality resonates through this mesmerising expressionistic noir. Infused with a sophistication built during an early career working in Hollywood, Galindo’s vividly corrupt world emerges from the shadows and takes to the open road, amidst harsh factory conditions and driven by the irresistible seductiveness of the rumba. Iconic elements materialise in the rich black-and-white textures filmed by the great modernist photographer Agustín Jiménez. With Roberto Cañedo and Amalia Aguilar.

Digital Restoration courtesy of the Filmoteca UNAM.


8:35PM – FOUR AGAINST THE WORLD

Alejandro Galindo
 (1950) 99 mins
Unclassified 15+ Unless accompanied by an adult

This dazed Mexican-melodrama-cum-boozer-heist-noir cuts a dark swath over a border nominally dominated by the hardboiled likes of Chandler and Hammett. Employing many of the classic tropes of Mexican noir (blood-tainted money, hothouse betrayals, the entrapped yearnings of dark hearts), we follow the slow demise of a gang who hole up in an attic in the wake of a fatal robbery. Galindo liberally dashes in lashes of the smokiest amour mort, gradually whittling it down to an ill-fated if rapturous coupling of gangster’s moll and underling. Starring Leticia Palma and Víctor Parra.

Digital Restoration courtesy of the Filmoteca UNAM.

February 5
OPENING NIGHT

February 12 – February 26
VITTORIO DE SICA: CINEMA, ITALIAN STYLE

March 4 – March 18
LIGHT AND SHADOW: THE MERCURIAL STARDOM OF MARLENE DIETRICH

March 23 – April 6
CAST A DARK SHADOW: THE BEAUTIFUL SADNESS OF DIRK BOGARDE

April 13 – April 29
THE BIG CARNIVAL: THE FILMS OF BILLY WILDER

May 6 – May 20
“LIFE’S PARADE AT YOUR FINGERTIPS”: DOUGLAS SIRK

May 27 – June 10
WILDFLOWERS: DANCING, DESIRE AND FREEDOM IN THE FILMS OF GILLIAN ARMSTRONG

June 17 – July 1
DRIFTING STATES: THE FILMS OF APICHATPONG WEERASETHAKUL

July 8
AT HOME IN THE WORLD: CECIL HOLMES, ACTIVIST FILMMAKER

July 15 – July 29
HIROSHI SHIMIZU: FORGOTTEN MASTER

September 2 – September 16
JEAN COCTEAU: THE POETRY OF DREAMS

September 23 – September 30
QUEERING THE ARCHIVE: THE CINEMA OF BARBARA HAMMER

October 7 – October 14
GALLOWS BACCHANALIAS, FRACTIOUS FAIRY-TALES AND THE RULE OF THREE: THE CINEMA OF JURAJ JAKUBISKO

October 21 – November 4
REACHING BEYOND THE FRAME: THE POETIC CINEMA OF ABBAS KIAROSTAMI

November 11 – November 25
BORSCHT, SAUERKRAUT, GOULASH AND LEMONADE: AN INTRODUCTION TO OSTERNS AND RED WESTERNS

December 2 – December 16
THE LAND IS OURS: YOUSSEF CHAHINE