Hey, everyone. "Moriarty" here with some Rumblings From The Lab.
I've got my own review of this film coming later today. I will say that I recommend it highly, and that I think it's one of those cases where the ratings system in America has failed the public completely. This film shouldn't be an NC-17, even though it would be if the MPAA got their hands on it, and it shouldn't have to face the difficulties of an unrated release. It has more to say about the reality of youth and sex and friendship than every gross out teen comedy in America in the past five years, and deserves wide distribution so it can be seen.
Enough of what I think, though. Here's my favorite online reviewer, Mr. Beaks, back after a brief break and gearing up for his move to Los Angeles. Can't wait to see you when you get here, man. Let's see what you've got for us today...
Y TU MAMA TAMBIEN (d. Alfonso Cuaron, w. Carlos & Alfonso Cuaron)
Meet Julio (Gael Garcia Bernal) and Tenoch (Diego Luna), or, better yet, run. Run from Julio and Tenoch before they bugger you seventeen-and-a-half ways to Sunday, for these boys, taken as a whole beast, are a wide open Pandora's Box of teenage carnality. What's worse, their sexually accommodating girlfriends have flown off to Italy on vacation, leaving them, literally, masturbating poolside at Tenoch's politically connected (re: corrupt) father's mansion, launching their young, potent seed off the diving board and into the wide, blue, olympic-sized yonder like sticky, white Greg Lougani.
Oh, but such satisfaction is maddeningly temporary; even after an evening's ecstasy-fueled exploits, the boys come down desperately seeking a human outlet for their insatiable sexual appetite. Their search, however, remains futile; that is, until Luisa (Maribel Verdu), the thirty-something wife of Tenoch's dashingly effete cousin, appears. The boys descend upon her at a classy societal gathering with the ravenous, scavenger-like ferociousness of a jackal. Sniffing out her loneliness and dormant love life, they ask her to accompany them on a road trip to a non-existent oceanside paradise, an offer she politely declines until she inadvertently discovers her husband has been carrying on an affair with another woman. Shocked, and emotionally devastated, Luisa impulsively contacts Julio, indicating her desire to get away ASAP; a wish this delighted, Dionysian Duo grant all too happily.
The ensuing libidinal odyssey makes for one of the finest, most accurate and certainly most explicit depictions of late-teenage sexuality ever filmed - so refreshingly bacchanal that IFC Films apparently didn't even bother to submit the movie to the Puritan MPAA, an organization comprised of what one can only presume to be sick individuals who believe graphic violence is more socially acceptable than sensuality. While it's a relief that the film is being presented uncut, the lack of the ratings board's approval ensures that those outside of major cities will have to wait for DVD, which is a shame since, like the best comedies, this is a movie best experienced with an audience.
Obviously, Y TU MAMA TAMBIEN has its share of shockingly brusque moments, but what sets it apart from the PORKY'S set is the palpable humanity brought to the work by director Alfonso Cuaron, who also co-wrote with his brother, Carlos. Known best in the U.S. for his acclaimed, if little seen, A LITTLE PRINCESS, as well as the colorful, if largely unsuccessful, Paltrow-fied update of GREAT EXPECTATIONS, Cuaron, shedding the heavy stylization of those previous movies, returned to his native Mexico with the expressed intent of making a no-frills answer to the glut of unrealistic teen films which have cluttered the multiplexes over the last several years. Taking a cue from his son's experiences, Cuaron and longtime collaborator, cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, set out to capture the awakening - scratch that - *awakened* and rabid sexuality of an eighteen year-old in all its raw glory, and all on a budget which probably wouldn't have covered the craft services on either of his last two films.
This fearless, balls-out artistic approach freed up Cuaron and Lubezki to indulge their wildest filmmaking impulses, resulting in a some truly inventive staging. One of the best moments has Luisa shedding the boys as her dance partners to take a turn with the audience; an idea that could've fallen flat in the wrong hands, but, instead, exhilarates thanks to Lubezki's smooth execution. This ramshackle approach also loosened up the writers to insert tangential, Godard-ian asides via voice-over addressing everything from a non-descript roadside stop's history to the fate of a wandering pack of wild pigs. These non-sequitors, dropped in seemingly from out of nowhere, are perfectly integrated into the film's organic tapestry, and lend the film a shaggy, cosmic charm.
With the filmmakers off on a lark, the actors respond with a trio of wonderfully endearing performances. Garcia-Bernal and Luna, bearing the most difficult assignment of making these two horndogs likeable, veer from bratty to sympathetic with astonishing ease. Even at their most obnoxious, though, they suggest the thoughtful adults that lie beneath the surface, which may be the film's greatest triumph, as it allows the audience to, mostly, excuse their childish behavior. As the older object of the boys' affection, Verdu, a Spanish screen mostly unknown to U.S. audiences, exudes a measured, compassionate sexuality, but can smolder when called upon, and will leave many a young man pining for a tryst with their own Luisa. Still, the performances are best considered as an ensemble; they give that old, reliable, triangle dynamic a real pop.
What's most surprising about Y TU MAMA TAMBIEN is how Mexican audiences, apparently as starved for such brutal honesty as the director, made this film a huge box-office smash. Will it catch on in the U.S.? Since all the previous commercial hurdles for foreign films have been debunked over the years (people will read subtitles if *gasp* a film engages them), it seems only the MPAA and timid exhibitors are standing in its way. Once again, it's not so often that moviegoers prefer processed fare like QUEEN OF THE DAMNED and RESIDENT EVIL, it's simply that they aren't given the alternative. Some worldwide successes don't connect with U.S. audiences due to a clash of sensibilities, but this doesn't apply to Cuaron's film. It's sexy and funny. Translation: it will sell if given a chance.
If Y TU MAMA TAMBIEN has a shortcoming, it's that some critics have expressed unease with how the film almost discards Luisa, making her feel quite like a plot mechanism, but rather than troubling, her exit from the boys' life attains a graceful poignancy, and sets up a bittersweet, one-year-later coda that, while of political significance due to Mexico's fairly recent shift of power, captures the oft-inescapable chasm that widens between high school chums once they head off for college. It's an earned moment of reflection and loss, broken abruptly by the credits, over which Frank Zappa's guitar wails plaintively, bringing an unexpectedly melancholy end to the first true cinematic triumph of 2002.
P.S. I understand this is high praise, and, since 2002 is fairly young, calling it the best film so far this year isn't saying much; ergo, I'll let you know I first saw Y TU MAMA TAMBIEN in 2001, and it would've placed #6 on my top-ten list behind IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE, THE MAN WHO WASN'T THERE, MULHOLLAND DRIVE, ALI, and AUDITION. Meanwhile, the films behind it were WIT, FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING, MEMENTO and the still-unreleased TIME OUT.
If Beaks says it's good, you can take it to the bank. After all, he's got even better taste than me.
Wait... I didn't just say that...