Thursday, July 31, 2008
Roberto Gavaldón (Mexico, 1959)
This retelling of a story by the author of Treasure of the Sierra Madre combines Brothers Grimm folktale with Buñuelian social satire as it follows a luckless woodcutter’s struggles against God, Satan, Death, and that deadliest of all beasts, the State. On the Day of the Dead, all Mexico seems ready to celebrate, but poor Macario staggers through the streets carrying sticks of firewood, his cross to bear to feed his family. “We spend our lives starving to death,” he sighs, then vows, “I won’t eat again until I can be full.” When a turkey is mysteriously bestowed upon him, equally mysterious strangers suddenly tempt him for a bite, but Macario shares not with God nor the Devil, but with Death, who offers a reward that could turn this poor woodcutter into a miraculous healer, or an enemy of a scheming State. Gabriel Figueroa’s cinematography adds an eerie gleam to this Day of the Dead fable of those who wager against death itself.
• Written by Gavaldón, Emilio Carballido, based on a story by B. Traven. Photographed by Gabriel Figueroa. With Ignacio López Tarso, Pina Pellicer, Enrique Lucero, José Galvez. (87 mins, In Spanish with English subtitles, B&W, 35mm, From Filmoteca de la UNAM)