Film buffs can be valuable friends. They're the ones who manage to cull through the endless list of titles released, past and present, recommending films off the tops of their heads that you likely won't consider a waste of your two hours' time. And they know directors, those folks whose names we hear much less often than those of the actors who work for them. There are directors out there whose names are certainly worth throwing around, too, whose vision is the reason we continue to love a good night at the movies so much.
I'm not anyone's film buff friend, and before I went to Middlebury, I would have been hard pressed to name more than four or five directors from anywhere in the world, much less a single Mexican director; the task would have been definitively futile. I didn't know a single one, and had perhaps seen a total of Mexican films that I could tick off on the fingers of one hand.
And then Amores Perros was released in the States, and I realized all that would have to change. Alejandro González Iñárritu would become, in my estimation, one of a powerhouse triumvirate of Mexican directors, accompanied in his place of honor by Alfonso Cuarón and Guillermo del Toro. Equally comfortable directing in both Spanish and English, they have the gift of drawing out award-worthy (and often award-winning) performances from the actors who tell their films' stories. And they've all widely released films here in their home country over the last couple of months, all of which merit the applause the directors have received in the past.
Our favorite of the three is del Toro's latest creation, a darkly violent and eerily beautiful fantasy of a tale set in Spain's early post-Civil War era. El Laberinto del Fauno will be released in the U.S. at the end of this month as Pan's Labyrinth, offering a retreat into del Toro's rich imagination and a return to the horror that lies behind the old, archetypal fairy tale. It is a masterpiece of a movie, one of the best we've seen all year.
The films of Iñárritu and Cuarón didn't disappoint, either. Though Iñárritu's Babel-- the third and final film in his portmanteau-style trilogy that includes Amores Perros and 21 Grams--doesn't quite deliver the visceral, leave-you-marked-for-life punch that Amores Perros swung out, the acting is without fault, and the stories it weaves together are both tragically intense and relevant. And Cuarón's adaptation of P.D. Jame's novel of the same title, Children of Men, also set for its U.S. release in a matter of weeks, spares nothing in the way of exploring hypothetical global infertility of the human race. A couple of supporting performances throughout the film serve to make painfully poignant, in all the word's definitions, the value of human contribution.
These three films have also meant a happy contribution from Patricio's wallet into the cash boxes of Cinemex Theaters, and though I wouldn't dare say I'm a film buff kind of friend, I'll volunteer these suggestions in the spirit of an enthusiast's goodwill, and with all the brimming enthusiasm Mexico has the privilege of enjoying on behalf of its excellent film-making minds.