Que Sea De Cinco BalazosSunday, November 14, 2010
In fact I have been present when former Vancouver Magazine art director Chris Dahl yelled from his room to Malcolm Parry’s (the editor of Vancouver Magazine in my time of the 70 and 80s), “Alex has handed in a good photograph so we need more space. Get rid of some of that copy.” The writer in question (and others, too) who must have been furious at Parry for removing their wonderful words, will never know that I was the one who was really to blame.
The above simply serves as my questionable explanation/justification for the fact that I am going to ramble in many directions before I reach that “aha!” point for whoever goes past this. If I ramble it is because I am my own editor and art director. I don’t accept ads and I can write as much as I want and use as many pictures as I want, and even better, I can run them as big as I want!
This story might have begun in 1955 when my grandmother, my mother and I landed in a Pan American Airways Constellation in the Mexico City airport of Benito Juarez. But it didn’t. Or at least I did not know this until yesterday (Saturday night).
This story began when I arrived at the Vancouver Public Library (Main Branch) on Thursday at 5:50 pm. By some luck of the draw I went to the video shelf and found the one episode of Foyle’s War (22 in all) that Rosemary and I had somehow missed. There on the shelf was They Fought in the Fields.
I was at the library to pick up a copy of The Diary of Anne Frank that Rebecca is reading for school. I had originally obtained two copies, one for Rosemary to read and one for Rebecca. This latter one I took out with her library card as if she takes longer to return it there are no fines for children. After almost a month Rebecca had informed her mother that she did not like diaries and that she was not going to finish this one even if Rosemary happens to help her in reading it.
Both Rosemary and I agree that until a child has developed a reading habit, that child must finish, when possible, any book that is begun, and in particular when it has been assigned by her teacher. I was at the library to get that copy that Rebecca was going to finish if Rosemary got her way.
But with Foyle’s War in hand I heard an announcement that the library was closing. Big city? Researchers would need a library to be open on Friday night past 6, don’t you think?
To my horror just as I was about to self-check-out my Foyle’s War I noticed I had no wallet (and no library card). I remembered that I had left it in another coat. If I replaced the DVD in its original shelf, there would be no certainty that I would find it the next day, Friday. And so I hid it!
Where did I hide it? I chose the section on books in Spanish and slipped it inside a copy of Arturo Perez-Reverte’s La Tabla de Flandes.
That’s where Foyle’s War was the next morning. But since I was already there in the Spanish section I looked through their DVD film collection in Spanish.
It was there that I found a most surprising film, Roberto Gavaldón’s La Escondida with María Felix and Pedro Armendáriz. This 1955 film was shot by the legendary Mexican cinematrographer Gabriel Figueroa (John Ford’s, 1947 The Fugitive with Henry Fonda, Dolores del Río and Pedro Armendáriz had the same cinematographer).
I have a slim connection with the film director who was one of Mexico’s best. That same year that he directed La Escondida his The Littlest Outlaw (1953) was released. It was a Walt Disney film that featured not only that great Mexican actor Pedro Armendáriz but a bright new child actor called Andrés Velázquez who made few films after that one.
And I know why. Shortly after he made the film he was involved in a motor accident and had one of his legs amputated. Walt Disney paid for everything including a brand new prosthetic leg. It was sometime around 1956 that my mother had a private student who would come to the house. He was handsome. He walked with a strange limp. My mother told me of the tragedy.
Both my mother and grandmother thought that most Mexican movies were overacted and they called them dramones (big, loud drama). They were not better than bad operas with the difference that at least bad operas had better music (so said my mother and grandmother). And I also avoided one of his other very good films, Macario, 1959 which was based on a B. Traven novel.
Because I was one who preferred the imported over the home grown (Mexicans would call me a “malinchista” I could not appreciate that Mexicans had a high regard for the mysterious writer, B. Traven. Little is known about the man who was born in Chicago and died in Mexico City in March of 1969. For the same reason, I was not privy to the fact that Gavaldón’s favourite cinematographer was the highly regarded Gabriel Figueroa. I have watched The Fugitive so many times and just marveled at his camera work. I have also marveled at Pedro Armendáriz who plays the cool atheist policeman who is out to find the Whiskey Priest, Henry Fonda. While I would say that Ford did well to pick Dolores del Río since María Felix might have been to haughty looking for the part, I can see the similarities and I can see why Gavaldón chose her to play Gabriela (from poor Indian woman to haughty high society and back to dead) in La Escondida which is the definitive Mexican film about the 1911 (it prefigured WWI) Mexican Revolution.
And I would disagree with my mother and grandmother that the music of the film was bad. Quite to the contrary it has the music of Cuco Sanchez who was a noted singer/composer of the golden era of the Mexican trios (late 40s and 50s). In fact some of his most famous songs was written specifically for La Escondida.
We managed to see about 40 minutes of it on Saturday night while Hilary perused with great detail a plastic envelope containing all her grades and teacher’s comments from all her elementary and secondary years in Vancouver. Rosemary had found the envelope and had given it to Hilary before the film began. Rebecca told me she did not understand all that was being said (the library copy has not subtitles). So I reluctantly (I felt hurt and isolated) shut the TV off to finish the film today.
But I thought about it. Hilary was born in Mexico but we took her from it when she was only three. It would be impossible for her to feel any nostalgia. She would not know that María Felix is the most famous of all Mexican actresses and that she was in many of the films of the golden era of Mexican cinema, late 40s and 50s. She would not know about Pedro Armendariz nor would she know who B. Traven was.
Rebecca complained on what she considered over acting. I did not explain that one of the major differences between Spanish and English is that you can speak English with your mouth almost closed. You can mumble English. To speak Spanish and to properly pronounce the one value of the five vowels you must speak with your mouth open. To speak Spanish is to almost over act.
There is something unique about Mexican women. My grandmother used to make fun of female Ranchera singers. She told me they sang with their stomachs and she disliked the way they mimicked the male (and very macho) Ranchero singers. One of her absolute favourites to malign was Lola Beltrán now considered to be the best Ranchera singer that ever was.
María Felix, in La Escondida is in her ravishing prime. She has eyebrows and eyes (all black) that almost make you ignore the rest of her (all lovely). But there is masculinity in her acting that only a Mexican would understand. And while I am not Mexican I understand, too and I am not put off by her performance.
The only person I know who would enjoy La Escondida would be my oldest daughter Ale, seen here when she was 6 or 7 with her Mexican godmother Rosa Velia Gomez. She left Mexico when she was 8 and she has returned many times and kept her Mexico City Spanish to perfection. Many of the words used in La Escondida are Mexican dialect/slang that so confused Rebecca or made Rosemary say that the actors were mumbling!
There is a seen in La Escondida where Gabriela (María Felix) is riding train defended by the nasty Federales. The parched landscape of magueyes (they make tequila from them) finally gets under her skin and she says, "I long to get awy from all these magueyes and to be back in Mexico City." You might note the handsome maguey behind my daughter and her godmother.
La Cama de Piedra (Cuco Sanchez)
De piedra ha de ser la cama
De piedra la cabecera,
La mujer que a mí me quiera,
Me ha de querer de a de veras,
Ay, ay, corazón porqué no me amas.
Subí a la sala del crimen
Le pregunté al presidente
Que si es delito quererte,
Que me sentencien a muerte,
Ay, ay, corazón porqué no amas.
El día que a mí me maten
Que sea de cinco balazos
Y estar cerquita de ti
Para morir en tus brazos
Ay, ay, corazón porqué no amas.
Por caja quiero un sarape
Por cruz mis dobles cananas
Y escriban sobre mi tumba
Mi último adiós con mil balas
Ay, ay, corazón porqué no amas.
La Cama de Piedra