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 6
OPENING NIGHT 2019

February 13 - February 27
FIGURATIVE LANDSCAPES AND SOCRATIC CONVERSATIONS: THE VISIONARY CINEMA OF NURI BILGE CEYLAN

March 6 - March 20
OLD, WEIRD ALBION: BRITISH SUPERNATURAL AND GOTHIC HORROR CINEMA OF THE 1950s-1970s

March 27 - April 10
“FILMS WITH A MESSAGE JUST MAKE ME LAUGH”: THE UNBLINKING GAZE OF CLAUDE CHABROL

April 17 - May 1
MORAL CRUCIBLES: THE FILMS OF ROBERT ALDRICH 

May 8 - May 22
TIME AND TIDE: YASUJIRO OZU

May 29 - June 12
DANCE TO THE MUSIC OF TIME: THE WORLD OF MAX OPHULS

June 19 - July 3
LINES OF FLIGHT: THE EXISTENTIAL CINEMA OF LARISA SHEPITKO

July 10 - July 17
A WOMAN OF ACTION: THE KINETIC CINEMA OF KATHRYN BIGELOW

July 24
COMING TO AMERICA: ERNST LUBITSCH IN HOLLYWOOD

August 28 -September 4
ENTER LAUGHING: ELAINE MAY’S COMEDIC GENIUS

September 11 - September 25
PRAGUE: A LONGITUDINAL DOCU-FANTASIA

October 2 - October 16
THE WHISPER OF THE GENERATIONS: ERMANNO OLMI’S REALIST CINEMA

October 23 - November 6
ENDURING MODERNITY: THE TRANSCONTINENTAL CAREER OF LOUISE BROOKS

November 13 - November 20
SHIFTING SHELTER: LANDSCAPE AND BELONGING IN THE FILMS OF IVAN SEN

November 27
POETIC PORTRAITS AND MERCURIAL MEMOIRS: THE BIOGRAPHICAL DOCUMENTARIES OF LYNN-MAREE MILBURN

December 4 - December 18
TERENCE DAVIES: THE ART OF MEMORY