Ernesto Gomez Cruz

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El Norte Review


Extraordinary
Gregory Nava's El Norte has come to be regarded as the definitive portrait of the experience of undocumented Latin-American workers in the United States. Released in 1983, Nava's film has lost none of its lyrical and thematic power as it follows two Mayan Indian teenagers, brother and sister, whose dreams of a better life in America belie the fact they are simply trading one form of dehumanization for another.

The film's direction and script -- co-written by Nava and Anna Thomas -- are spare yet purposeful. At times, Nava and Thomas's work feels a bit clumsy with its jabs at broad cultural stereotypes (fatuous gringo employers, vulgar Mexicans, etc.) and liberal dips into melodrama, but El Norte is also lyrically eloquent, steeped in dreams and visual metaphors that allude to a portentous future for its protagonists.

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El Crimen Del Padre Amaro Review


Weak
Whether appearing on the front page of the morning paper or being the butt of a Late Night joke, Catholic priests just can't seem to catch a break. These days, knocking the Church is in vogue -- and director Carlos Carrera isn't about to let this opportunity pass him by. Carrera's latest film, El Crimen Del Padre Amaro, so brazenly criticizes the priesthood that it had bishops all over Mexico calling for a boycott. Instead, the film took in more at the box office than any other movie in the country's history.

Now showing to U.S. audiences, Padre Amaro tells the tale of a newly ordained priest who falls from grace with a little help from a rural Mexican community. The handsome Padre, played by Gael García Bernal of Amores Perros and Y Tu Mamá También, begins his stay in Los Reyes as the sort of kind spirit who gives his money to an old man after being robbed on a bus. By the end, though, he's no better -- and perhaps quite a bit worse -- than the corrupt elders who surround him.

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Midaq Alley Review


Grim
Also known as El callejón de los milagros, the producers will not hesitate for a second to tell you this is "the most awarded film in Mexican history." That may carry some weight with cineastes and film historians, but Midaq Alley turns out to be little more than a long (2 1/2 hours) Mexican soap opera with its basic premise stolen from Rashomon. Not much you have to do to get those Mexican awards, it appears.

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El Crimen Del Padre Amaro Review


OK

Bearing subtle but uncanny structural similarities to American mob movies like "The Godfather" and "Goodfellas," Mexico's highest grossing homegrown film of all time is a substantive parable about an honorable young priest corrupted by desire, temptation, ego and ethical turpitude within the Catholic Church.

"El crimen del Padre Amaro" stars sharply handsome Gael García Bernal (ubiquitous of late in the Mexican imports "Amores Perros" and "Y Tu Mamá También") as Father Amaro, an eager, newly ordained, 24-year-old priest whose ideals are tested and found wanting when he's assigned to a small-town parish run by an canon-transgressing elder clergyman.

Father Benito (Sancho Gracia) may be dedicated to his congregation, but he's also in bed figuratively with local drug cartels -- their donations are funding construction of a new church-run hospital -- and literally with a local widow (Angélica Aragón). Coincidentally, it is this woman's eye-catchingly angelic, devout but extremely sensual teenage daughter Amelia (Ana Claudia Talancón) who is the initial catalyst for Father Amaro's downfall.

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Ernesto Gomez Cruz

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