Mexperimental Cinema, Program 1: Surveying the Terrain | Chicago Reader

Mexperimental Cinema, Program 1: Surveying the Terrain

This touring package of shorts, organized by video artist Rita Gonzalez and documentarian Jesse Lerner, highlights the various phases of alternative filmmaking in Mexico from the early 1930s to the present, and this first part includes work by some key pioneers. Adolfo Best Maugard, who experimented with various media and advised Eisenstein during the shooting of Que Viva Mexico!, is represented by fragments from Humanidad (1934), a newsreel project extolling public institutions; its images of a military school and dairy plant, shot by ace photographer Agustin Jimenez, recall both the fascistic grandeur of Leni Riefenstahl and the poetic realism of Rene Clair. Eisenstein's influence on the Mexican avant-garde has been pervasive, and Ruben Gamez's Magueyes (1962) refers explicitly to the plant that symbolizes the peasants' resourcefulness in Que Viva Mexico! In a bravura montage sequence set to Shostakovich's First Symphony, rows of magueys come alive and do battle; Gamez turns their fleshy leaves into threatening swords but also “choreographs” them to sway like Busby Berkeley chorines. Three 1986 Super-8 shorts by performance artist Silvia Gruner poke fun at female nudes in painting: Desnudo desciende mocks Duchamp, Desnudo con alcatraces examines the pose, and Pecado original reproduccion is a series of visual puns on the erotic images of Goya, Manet, and the school of Fontainebleau. On the same program: Antonio Reynoso's El despojo (1960), about villagers' disillusionment with grandiose federal projects, and Ximena Cuevas's Medias mentiras, a video that deconstructs middle-class values and media hypocrisy.

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