Hollywood’s Latin American Fiesta

FLying Down to Rio (1933) and Down Argentine Way (1940) In the 1930s and 40s, the USA in general, and Hollywood in particular, went gaga for all things south of the border. In 1933, Roosevelt launched the ‘Good Neighbor’ policy, in which he sought to improve the image of the US among Latin American countries. Since it proved somewhat difficult to reassure Latin American governments of his non-interventionist direction, having suffered repeated, heavy-handed military interventions from the US in the past, Roosevelt’s Inter-American Office persuaded Hollywood’s major production companies to demonstrate this new-found love for everything Latin American through cinema. So, over the next decade or so, a flurry of films was produced, using the power of song, dance, and Betty Grable’s legs, to demonstrate friendship towards countries like Brazil and Argentina, and to show US audiences the positive side to Latin America. Looking at these films nowadays, it can be slightly cringe-inducing to see Carmen Miranda pop up as the token ‘Latina’, complete with fruit-basket headdress, because, Latin America is ‘exotic’ you know, or to listen to a Hollywood star mangling the Spanish language, because obviously, darling, we can’t have some unknown from Argentina taking on a leading role. It doesn’t seem to concern anyone exactly which bit of Latin America the film is about; hence Mexican Dolores Del Rio assumes a Brazilian role, while Brazilian Carmen Miranda is the showpiece of ‘Argentine’ culture. Still, there is a clear attempt to minimise the differences between Americans, US and Latin, at least within the upper echelons of society, and boy, are these film fun. Both Flying Down to Rio...

Review: Sin Nombre

Amidst a very real migration crisis on the Mexican/US border, this Mexican/US collaboration has produced an insightful, deeply human tale of the true cost of crossing borders and hoping for a better life. With glorious cinematography and a versatile, exciting director at the helm, Sin Nombre is a revelation.  Language: Spanish Running Time: 96 mins Director: Cary Fukunaga Starring: Paulina Gaitan, Edgar Flores Genre: Adventure/Crime Drama Rating: 4 stars The Film Risking violence, robbery and death on a monumental journey atop a freight train, Honduran teenager Sayra is travelling through the entirety of Mexico with her father and uncle, hoping to build a better life in the USA. Her world collides with that of Casper, a young, troubled soul who has got on the wrong side of his violent gang, the notorious MS-13. How much is Sayra prepared to risk for Casper, and for how long can he outrun the gangsters who want him dead? The Review Though this film pulls no punches in terms of bloody violence, it in no way over-dramatises the situation. In fact, it’s a restrained portrayal which never spills into the gratuitous, and Fukunaga is a director with a feather-light touch. He pulls you into the story with long silences atmospheric shots, contrasting the lush beauty of Mexico’s changing landscapes with the gritty ganglands and the piles of people sheltering under thin sheets of plastic on top of the train. The viewer is left to draw their own conclusions about the characters’ motives and thoughts. It’s hard not to be swept up in the story, journeying each step with Sayra and Casper. Find out a...

Review: Les Intouchables

French cinema is having something of a renaissance, with films sweeping across the channel attracting a global audience. Les Intouchables raises the bar even higher, breaking box-office records set by previous smashes such as ‘Amelie’ and ‘The Chorus’. A laugh-out-loud comedy, and a touching, original story, watch it before Hollywood gets their hands on the rights. Language: French Running Time: 112 minutes Director: Olivier Nakache, Eric Toledano Starring: François Cluzet, Omar Sy Genre: Comedy Drama Rating: 4 stars The Film Philippe (Cluzet), is a multi-millionaire Parisian with a short temper and a love of classical music and pretentious art. He is also a quadriplegic, confined to a state-of-the-art wheelchair. Driss (Sy), is a French-African born into the slums of Paris, where drugs and violence are a way of life. They form an unlikely partnership when Driss turns up at a job interview with Philippe just so he can get his social security benefit, and ends up with a job as Philippe’s carer. Philippe’s dull, clinical world is flung into disarray as Driss delights in driving his supercars, flirting with Philippe’s assistant and disbelievingly pouring hot water onto his boss’ unfeeling legs. Life without Driss is soon unthinkable, but are their worlds simply too different for the fun to last? The Review: I knew this film was something special when it had my mum and brother gripped – I can’t usually get them to sit through an entire foreign-language film! From the first flash-forward scence, which sets up an extraordinary scenario that takes the rest of the film to unpick, to the moments of laugh-out-loud humour, this is a compassionate, fresh and funny film. While there...

An Amelie Tour of Paris

Thirteen years ago, an off-beat French film captured the hearts and imaginations of people all over the world and propelled Audrey Tatou to stardom. Le Fableux Destin d’Amelie Poulain remains an iconic Parisian film, with such a sweet story at its heart that you just can’t help but fall in love with Amélie and her city, and there’s no better way to relive the film than with an Amelie tour of Paris.  If you’d like to know more about the film, read the review here. These days, though the Amélie obsession there once was in Paris has quietened, the film is still deeply intertwined into Paris life. Stand long enough in the Gare du Nord, which was one of the locations used in the film, and the tinkling, melodic music of Yann Tiersen’s soundtrack will fill the air, courtesy of an amateur pianist at one of the public pianos. But it is in Montmartre that the film really comes to life. Walking up Rue Lepic, close to the Moulin Rouge, the Café des 2 Moulins is an unprepossessing sight at first; one street café among many along this stretch. Patrons sit in the wicker chairs beneath the scarlet awning, sipping coffee and flicking through the morning paper, keeping one eye on the hustle and bustle of life around them. But it is unmistakably Amélie’s café. Inside, the long bar, and even the layout of the chairs and tables, is exactly as it looks in the film. The only thing that is missing is the hypochondriac waitress, and you can’t help but watch the glasses on the shelves behind the bar,...

Review: Le Fableux Destin d’Amelie Poulain

Bursting onto our screens in a shimmer of light and joy way back in 2001, Le Fableux Destin d’Amelie Poulain had immediate – and lasting – success, winning a slew of awards and legions of fans. Whether you’re discovering this delightful film for the first time, or re-watching it for the twentieth, Amelie is a sweet, whimsical and touching story that it won’t fail to enchant you.  Language: French Running Time: 122 minutes Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet Starring: Audrey Tatou, Mathieu Kassovitz Genre: Romantic Comedy Rating: 5 stars The Film Amelie is a solitary young woman, deprived of affection and friendship throughout her childhood and she lives as an outsider, observing life. When she discovers a box hidden in the wall of her apartment, she begins an odyssey of kind deeds, never looking for recognition or thanks. She helps her reclusive and emotionally closed father to travel by sending his garden gnome off on an adventure, and brings experiences of the outside world to a painter with bones of glass, confined to his flat. But it is not until the painter reveals some truths to Amelie that she finally starts to truly live, and to find happiness for herself.   The Review: It is no surprise that this film has achieved cult status. With a strong, distinctive look and wide, doe eyes, Amelie captures hearts with her simple desire to help others and make them happy. The storytelling is akin to her fairytale, heightened by the use of muted colours and melodic, beguiling music. Yet Amelie never slips into the saccharine, always treading the fine line between pathos and light-heartedness, fantasy and realism. While the...

Review: The Square

Egypt is once again on the brink of an election and ex-president Morsi has just gone on trial, seven months after his one year term came to an explosive end. But has anything really changed, three years on from the first demonstrations in Tahrir Square, which sparked the Arab Spring and held the world’s attention? Filmmaker Jehane Noujaim tells the complete story of The Square and its revolutionaries, winning a clutch of awards in the process. Language: Arabic/English Running Time: 104 minutes Director: Jehane Noujaim Starring: Khalid Abdalla, Magdy Ashour, Ahmed Hassan, Ragia Omran, Ramy Essam, Aida Elkashef Genre: Documentary Studio: Noujaim Films Rating: 5 stars The Film The world was gripped in January 2011, when thousands of Egyptians filled Tahrir Square for days on end, demanding Mubarak’s resignation and the downfall of a regime which had seen secret police beating up citizens and a lack of any real freedom of speech. We were moved when Christians protected their Muslim brothers and sisters during Friday prayers. And we were jubliant when Mubarak finally said the words the crowd had been waiting to hear – that he was stepping down. Then came the army, swiftly replaced by the Muslim Brotherhood, with Morsi at its helm. Just as swiftly he was out, and once again, Egypt was under the control of the military, awaiting new elections once more. For outsiders looking in, we only got these snapshots, fragmented pieces of a story which are hard to make sense of. The Square is an attempt to draw all those pieces together. We follow a small group of Tahrir Square’s revolutionaries who were there at...
© 2011-2017 Starry-Eyed Travels