The MoMA Shows a Mexico Almost Unknown

The exhibition was one of the last projects by Jytte Jensen. She is a legend like curator in New York.

The exhibition was one of the last projects by Jytte Jensen. She is a legend like curator in New York.

The New Yorkers will know the Mexico of the forties and fifties. A Mexico far, very far, of the rural scenarios: modern and sophisticated.

In the Modern Museum of Art, during a week, between 23th and 29th, the New Yorkers will testify stories of love, deception, hate, betrayals and passion in Mexico, through of its cinematography.

The exhibition “Mexico at Midnight: Film Noir from Mexican Cinema’s Golden Age”, organized by the MoMA, with collaboration of the International Festival of Cinema of Morelia (FICM), will show a Mexican lifestyle of the middle of the past Century almost unknown.

How was the idea of this exhibition born? “The MoMA decided it”, said Daniela Michel, director of the FICM.

“Jytte Jensen, a legend of New York, and a wonderful curator —unfortunately she passed away this year— she honored with her presence last year in the jury in Morelia. She saw the movies in Morelia and she saw a good program for the MoMA”, shared Mrs. Michel.

Roberto Gavaldón, Julio Bracho and Tito Davison,
were inventing other version of Mexico, more diversified.

The old Mexican cinema did become famous for its rural movies. The golden images about the native Mexicans were projected in many parts of the world. Even some movies, like “Maria Calendaria”, from the director Emilio Fernández, won the Gold Palm on Cannes in 1946. Another film, “Tizoc”, from Ismael Rodriguez, won an award in the Berlin Festival Film for the best film in language foreign and his principal actor, Pedro Infante, for the best actor.

In those years, the Mexican cinema industry did produce almost two hundred movies per year. The critic Emilio García Riera wrote about that successful period in the History Documental of the Mexican Cinema, encyclopedia of 18 volumes. Many of those movies weren’t filmed in the rural scenarios.

“There is only one Mexico: the one I invented”, said on those years Mr. Fernández, one of the most important filmmakers that Mexico had. But at the same time, other directors, like Roberto Gavaldón, Julio Bracho and Tito Davison, were inventing other version of Mexico, more diversified.

“Mexican cinema is overlooked; unfortunately many of the great films of the Golden Era are unknown outside Mexico. Many people and institutions didn’t give opportunity to presentations of the Mexican films of this nature… But they don’t know about the diversity of Mexican cinema”, explained Mrs. Michel.

“Mexican society was very rich in the forties,
very cosmopolitan…”

Between 1940 and 1950, the Golden Age of Mexican Cinematography, the industry did produce movies about the modern Mexico. Those movies aren’t so famous like the rural cinema, but for the Mexican cinematography industry they were important, because they showed the modern Mexican life style… That just started.

En La Palma de tu mano (In the Palm of Your Hand), directed by Roberto Gavaldón at 1951.

En La Palma de tu mano (In the Palm of Your Hand), directed by Roberto Gavaldón at 1951.

“Great filmmakers like Roberto Gavaldón, Julio Bracho, Tito Davison, Ismael Rodríguez, Alejandro Galindo, were unknown. Even now, if you want to buy a DVD or Blu-ray is impossible”, said Mrs. Michel.

Now, the MoMA is showing some of these movies. The principal scenario is Mexico City that arrived to the modern period after that the Government took some architectural ideas from iconic cities, like New York, to build the new city.

“Mexican society was very rich in the forties, very cosmopolitan, in the forties people arrived from Spain…I think the society in Mexico was very exciting and sophisticated. In Crepúsculo of Julio Bracho, you see a beautiful apartment in Mexico city”, said Mrs. Michel.

The movies in themselves are classics of the Mexican cinema, but are more important, because in which participated some of the most prominent Mexican stars of that era, like the femme fatale María Félix, the classic beauty Dolores Del Río, the attractive Pedro Armendáriz and the great actor Arturo de Córdova.

The program opens this Thursday at 4:00 p.m. with the movie En La Palma de tu mano  (In the Palm of Your Hand), directed by Roberto Gavaldón at 1951. The story is about the professor Jaime Karin (Arturo de Córdova), who uses the secrets of his female clientele to blackmail them, but at the same time Karin was used by the widow Ana Cisneros de Romano (Leticia Palma).

Then comes La Noche avanza (Night Falls), directed at 1952 by Roberto Gavaldón. In this movie Pedro Armendáriz did one of his more interesting characters like an arrogant pelotari, far from his characters indigenes.

In La Diosa arrodillada (The Kneeling Goddess), directed by Roberto Gavaldón at 1947, the Mexican superstar María Félix plays with the love of Arturo de Córdova, but at the same time she was playing with her destiny.

Then, in Crepúsculo (Twilight), directed by Julio Bracho in 1945, again Arturo de Córdova is the victim of his passion. This movie was exhibited in the Venice Film Festival at 1947.

In Que Dios me perdone (May God Forgive Me), directed by Tito Davison at 1948, a spy, played by María Félix, uses his beauty to get information from rich men.

The exhibition will finish July 29 at 7:00 p.m. with Distinto amanecer (Another Dawn), directed by Julio Bracho at 1943. Again Pedro Armendáriz plays an urban character. Now Mr. Armendáriz is a syndical leader who tries to resolve the murder of one of his colleagues, but on his way, he discovers an old love.

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