lust: Verdú in Y tu mamá también.
la Teen Sex Comedy
tu mamá también
by Alfonso Cuarón
your mother too” (“Y tu imamá
también”) is the kind of pointed, juvenile taunt best friends
Tenoch (Diego Luna) and Julio (Gael García Bernal) regularly
toss at each other. They’re a pair of callow, horny teens
working hard at maintaining their stash, keeping the beer
cold, and plotting future sexual conquests. For them, the
future is barely perceptible through a perpetual, contented
haze of pot smoke. With their girlfriends spending the summer
in Italy, the boys’ only interests are immediate and carnal.
If the setting weren’t Mexico and the language Spanish, one
might be forgiven for thinking Y tu mamá también would
turn out to be just another teen movie.
Enter Luisa (Maribel Verdú). A Spaniard from Madrid, married
to Tenoch’s smug cousin, and 10 years their senior, she meets
the boys at a wedding. Typically brash, the two would-be studs
start right in hitting on her. Both flustered and amused,
she brushes them off without a second thought. Then the smug
husband has one affair too many, and she give the boys that
second thought. Their phony, testosterone-fueled babble about
a trip to a mythical beach called “Heaven’s Mouth” suddenly
appeals to her, and the three set off on a raucous, sexually
charged journey across Mexico.
What sets the film apart is director Alfonso Cuarón’s distanced
take on the action, and his determination to place this bizarre
love triangle firmly within the context of Mexican society.
The sense of distance is maintained by having a narrator (the
unseen Daniel Gimenez Cacho) guide the audience through the
story; like a noncommittal deity, the narrator fills in missing
details, comments on the characters, and goes off on mystifying
tangents that ultimately prove revelatory.
Cuarón puts each character in his or her place. Tenoch is
privileged, the son of a corrupt, wealthy politician, while
Julio is a middle-class kid with social ambitions. Luisa is
a little bit of both, a working-class woman who married well.
They travel through a countryside riven by poverty and revolution
with a disinterest and entitlement that is both shocking and
amusing. Of course, the political angle is never allowed to
distract too much from the sex. What’s the point of hiring
attractive young performers if they’re not naked half of the
Attentive moviegoers won’t be surprised by the crude mix of
fascinating personal upheavals and conventional, convenient
plot twists that punctuate the picture’s resolution. Offhand
comments (like the film’s title) and subtle details from seemingly
throwaway scenes pay off in unexpected, satisfying ways. The
boys discover more about each other than either could anticipate,
just as Luisa finally comes to terms with her failed marriage
and immediate future. (The audience has to come to terms with
the fact that Luisa is less a real woman and more a dramatic
In one joyously drunken moment near the end of their journey,
Luisa leads the boys in a toast to their country. Luisa, the
European, celebrates Mexico for its abundance of life. Tenoch
and Julio enthusiastically second her sentiments, but the
film’s denouement makes it clear the degree to which they
are able and willing to embrace life’s possibilities. In his
bracingly jaundiced, if facile, take on the political and
the personal, Alfonso Cuarón poses the same question about
Mexico and its future.
or Something Like It
by Stephen Herek
The very blonde young teen who exited the theater ahead of
me said it best: “Oh, Angelina is so beautiful!” Through
a brave, teary smile, her equally blonde friend agreed. That
is about the most emotion, genuine or not, that I witnessed
at the screening of this purported romantic comedy.
Yes, Angelina Jolie, as Seattle television reporter Lanie
Kerrigan, is distractingly beautiful, even under the overcoifed,
virtually platinum blonde hair that one might expect to find
satirized in a John Waters film. Unfortunately, Jolie’s exquisite
bone structure and nearly lascivious lips can’t distract us
from the fact that there is nothing substantial in Lanie or,
for that matter, in Life or Something Like It.
Jolie wears a plucky smile throughout much of the film no
matter what befalls her, disastrous or fortunate. When she
hears from the scruffy street prophet, Jack (Tony Shalhoub),
that she is going to die within the week, the news is digested
with the same superficiality she shows when learning of her
promotion to a featured spot on a popular network morning
talk show telecast live from New York.
And since she doesn’t invest the proceedings with much emotional
depth, neither do we. It’s shocking and saddening to see the
normally cool and knowing Jolie cluelessly foundering in John
Scott Shepherd’s and Dana Stevens’ trite, predictable screenplay,
which seems pulled from hoarier tombs than even Jolie’s Lara
Nor do we care a jot about her realizing that her star baseball
player boyfriend is not her soulmate. It seems that role is
meant for her blunt cameraman, Pete (Edward Burns), who lamely
claims not to be attracted to Lanie despite his obvious attraction
to her. Burns self-extinguishes just as badly as Jolie, and
there is certainly no flame, let alone spark, between them.
Their pairing makes the recent Richard Gere and Winona Ryder
feature, Autumn in New York, seem like a trenchantly
Whether or not Lanie’s mortality issues grab naive moviegoers,
one thing seems certain: The film should be dead, or something
like it, in a week.
by Mohsen Makhmalbaf
a considerably more nuan-ced look at the old, Taliban-ruled
Afghanistan than one is likely to find on any cable news outlet,
there is Kandahar. Iranian filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf
paints a stark, documentary-style portrait of a country ravaged
by 20 years of war, picked over by bandits and ruled by a
theocracy whose reactionary nature is only exceeded by its
uselessness as governing authority.
Nafas (Niloufar Pazira) is an expatriate Afghani lured back
to her desolate homeland by a desperate letter from her sister.
The sister, maimed by war and suffocating under the cruelties
of life for women under the Taliban regime, plans to kill
herself after the last solar eclipse of the last century.
Nafas is Westernized, independent, and a journalist. Her naive
confidence and breezy determination to reach the city of Kandahar
and save her sister seem quixotic from the beginning. (By
the time she reaches the Afghan border, there are only two
days left before the eclipse.) She departs from Iran in the
guise of being the fourth wife in an Afghan family also trying
to return home. Barely on their way, they are forced to turn
back. Nafas is left alone, and her real adventure begins.
If this sounds a bit contrived, that is how it plays out on
screen. (It doesn’t help matters that Pazira’s performance
is placid to the point of being inexpressive.) As a character,
however, Nafas is sufficient as a device for the film to take
the audience on its grim journey.
The fact that a woman can’t travel unaccompanied becomes Nafas’
constant problem. She must rely on men for help, in a place
where men aren’t supposed to help such women. In turn, she
meets an engaging if slightly menacing young boy named Khak
(Sadou Teymouri); an expatriate African-American named Tabib
Sahid (Hassan Tantai), whose search for God led him to a spiritual
dead-end; and Hayat (Hoyatala Hakimi), a crafty survivor whose
blunt wiles are her best hope for reaching her sister in time.
The Taliban are barely mentioned by name, but the oppression
of their regime is everywhere. There are the all-male religious
schools where the Koran and the Kalishnikov are the only subjects
of study; the intellectual and physical poverty of a society
in which all forms of modernism (except, as one character
wryly observes, weaponry) are banned; the onerous strictures
placed on the behavior of women. If everyone in this Afghanistan
is in a kind of societal prison, then women, forced to wear
the dehumanizing, head-to-toe covering of the burqa, are in
a literal prison.
Subversively, however, the filmmaker suggests that however
awful the Taliban are, Afghanistan is so utterly broken that
most of the characters are too preoccupied with mere survival
to worry about niceties like freedom. Starvation, disease,
and the terrifying, omnipresent land mines left over from
wars hot and cold are more tangible oppressors. When Nafas
finally faces her own and her sister’s fates, however, Makhmalbaf
couldn’t be clearer in making the point that it is the Taliban,
and their brand of organized lunacy, who have the final say.