Ok, I am off to Milwaukee in half an hour for a weekend of drunken debauchery, so my comments on Y Tu Mama Tambien
will necessarily be brief. In short, I think this is a great film, in a year, that for me at least, has been filled with many good (and even great) films, most of which, were made outside of the US. I just wanted to write a few short paragraphs about two of the most promimnent stylistic features of the film, and another on the politics of the film (all three of which are related). BTW, anyone who remembers me recommending an article and interview with Cauron that appeared in S & S can read it here
The Voice-Over Narration
One of the most interesting of the films many stylistic features is the matter of fact, voice over narration that occurs throughout the film; speaking in an objective manner, the narrator, who is never seen or featured in the film, delivers information of an omniscient variety, looking into the past, present, and future, not only delivering personal (both psychological and historical) insights never spoken about or alluded to by the main characters, but also detailing the fates of many peripheral characters (most of whom are poor, working-class Indians victimized by the corrupt government of the PRI, poverty, or globalization; counterpointed to the middle-class Julio and the upper-class Tenoch; as situation similar to that in the Argentinian La Cienaga
). Cauron describes how the narration was inspired by the work of Jean-Luc Godard, and in many ways, beyond adding a certain "novelistic" depth to the story, was an almost Brechtian distancing device. I knew there was a narrator in the film, but I did not know that the sound cut out completely when the narrator began to spoke, at the first instance of the narration, I thought the abrupt cut-off of sound was some sort of technical failure, and the continuing absence of sound before the narrator spoke provoked, in me atleast, certain, almost unconscious unease. Still, the break in the events on the screen allowed me to reflect and think about not only the main events of the dramatic narrative, but the political and economic landscape that the boys travel through. I think the lack of an explicit polemical tone, leaving the critical judgement to the audience, was crucial in getting the audience to reflect on what is happening in the Mexico of today, as I said, in an almost Brechtian manner.
The Roving Camera
While the film was filled with some beautifully composed images (one of my favorites being the low-angle, close-up of the bodyguard at the wedding, with the charro
riding up behind him; another is the very, very funny and raunchy seven minute take in the bar towards the end, where Luisa turns from the jukebox, dances back towards the boys, seductively, looking right into the camera as, I think it was steadicam, moves backwards in unison) and landscapes (courtesy of DP Emmanuel Lubezki), the most striking uses of the camera is when it wandered away from the main characters, like something out of an Italian neo-realist film, again seeking out the life of the lower-classes that surround Tenoch, Julio, and Luisa (an example, the maid taking the food out to the bodyguards and chauffers; the beggar, going into the kitchen at the roadside cantina; the frequent shots of the military and police roadblocks pulling over Indians). Another, related technique, was when the camera, instead of following the main characters, lingered behind, observing events after the main characters have departed.
I said before I think that these two formal techniques are interrelated with the films politics. The film is as much concerned with class, race, and masculinity as it is about sexuality and finding oneself. While never very overt (the only explicit political references coming in during the protest march with a quick note about Chiapas, another emphasis on the racial problems in Mexico, and the penultimate voice-over, talking about the defeat of the PRI in 2000), the political concerns of the film echo most loudly when the film employs the voice-over narration or the roaving camera, much of which centers on the plight, if you will, of the Indians, or on the unspoken class and sexual differences between Tenoch and Julio. Personally, I don't take an optimistic view of the ending as Joker does; to me, Julio, by forsaking writing for Economics, has pretty much caved into his father's wishes; while I see a new found soberness and distance, I don't exactly see an equally new sense of responsibility. I couldn't help but wonder, besides the obvious homoerotic feelings that have driven them apart, as well as the natural part of growing up, how much their class disparities eventually drove a wedge between them.