Intense, Attractive Young People Rehearse for Better Things in Drama/Mex

09/16/2011 10:31 AM |

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Tonight, Anthology Film Archives kicks off their series “GenMex: Recent Films from Mexico.” Drama/Mex plays Sunday afternoon and Tuesday evening.

The sophomore effort from Mexican director Gerardo Naranjo contains flourishes which are reminiscent of early Wong Kar-wai. Though not quite as visually accomplished as in Days of Being Wild or Chungking Express, the strong compositions and roving handheld camerawork still offer much to admire. (Also adding to the visual candy are some pretty young actors, playing characters who act on pure emotion more than developed thought.) The film ultimately feels like a promise of something greater—perhaps that something is Naranjo’s Miss Bala, which will be playing at the New York Film Festival next month.

The lives of five characters intersect over the course of one dayin rundown Acapulco. Teenage beauty Fernanda (Diana Garcia) can’t seem to resist the temptation of her bad-boy ex-boyfriend Chano (Emilio Valdés), who seems to resurface only to have sex or to steal. When Fernanda’s goofier new boyfriend, Gonzalo (Juan Pablo Castaneda), discovers her infidelity, it drives him mad but his instinct is to win her back, not punish her.

Meanwhile, businessman Jaime (Fernando Becerril) quits his job and escapes to a motel room to end his life, but becomes intrigued by a roguish, first-time teenage prostitute, Tigrillo (Miriana Moro). He rejects her sexual offers but is entertained enlivened by her reckless abandon.

Drama/Mex burns more quietly than the New Mexican Cinema’s heart-pounding standard-bearers, like the similarly interconnected Amores Perros, but the verve of the actors will keep you engaged. They make the treatment of sexual interplay, suicidal tension and salvation (do prostitutes really provide as much life affirmation as movies suggest?) entertaining to watch, even as Naranjo’s characterizations stay close to the surface. There’s no doubt he had talent from the beginning, even if here it feels a film or two away from full realization.