A Dark Tale of a Mexican Woman Writer
R. Swanson | New Mexico | 08/24/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Antonietta Rivas Mercado was a writer and social activist who lived during a stormy period of Mexico's history. Her personal life was as dark and dramatic as that of her era.
This film follows her from childhood when, as the daughter of a famous architect, she posed for the golden angel atop the famous column of Independence in Mexico City, and ends when she committed suicide in the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.
As a young woman, she married but left her husband and fell madly in love with a homosexual painter. Their Platonic relationship lasted for several years until she met a Mexican intellectual who was running for president of the country on the platform of offering education to the masses. She, and the painter supported him and eventually she became his lover and prime advisor.
After he was defeated she accompanied him in exile to Paris. In a telling scene, she begs him to tell her if he still needs her. He replies, that, really no one needs anyone, only God. Obviously this wasn't the answer she was hoping for, and that's when she committed her last dramatic act, by pressing the pistol to her heart in the pews of the Notre Dame.
Antonieta's story is told through the eyes of a modern day Parisian psychologist, played by Hannah Schygulla, who is researching the cases of women who committed suicide in the 20th Century. She becomes fascinated by Antonieta's story and travels to Mexico to find out more. There are wonderful film clips of life in Revolutionary and post Revolutionary Mexico showing pictures of female peasants strapped with ammunition for their rifles, and such heros as Pancho Villa, complete with huge sombrero. I found these segments some of the most interesting parts of the film.
The un-named, but overshadowing main character in this film is Death. (It would be an interesting study to compare Saura's fascination with death to that of his Nordic fellow film maker, Ingmar Bergman.) The film opens with a very bizarre scene of a perky, pretty young hostess of a TV cooking show, ending her presentation by putting a bullet through her head. We see death in a multitude of forms throughout the film, including a social club in which the game is to throw a loaded revolver up into the air, the sight of the painter's lover's nude dead body, perhaps killed by his wife...It goes on and on.
The bleakness of the subject matter is mitigated by the physical beauty of Mexico, it's sunny abundance, and the choice of very attractive people playing the leading roles. The photography is splendid, too. Otherwise it might be too dreadful to watch.
I question the casting. The Parisian born Isabelle Adjani, who stars as Antonieta, is very beautiful. With her porcelein skin and delicate frame, and reserved manners, she seems to me to be much more French than Mexican. I would have cast her as the Parisian psychologist, rather than the German Hanna Schygulla. She is charming and quixotic and one can imagine her falling in love with the handsome talented men she met but she lacks the fire and passion that I associate with Latin women. She's always immaculately dressed in tasteful French style and there's never a hair out of place or a hint of sweat on her powdered nose. One wonders what Selma Hayak or Penelope Cruz would have done with the role.
And strangely, although I sat through almost two hours of Antonieta's ups and downs, I felt remote from her, perhaps because her facial expression never changed. We never saw her laugh or cry and I don't recall even a smile.
I loved Saura's flamenco trilogy. I didn't like this nearly as well. Lovers of Mexican culture and history obviously will find much to like. Although we're seeing Antonieta through the eyes of a psychologist I saw nothing to explain her fatalistic behavior. In the end I found this a beautifully photographed biography, but felt no real human response. I think another film maker could have breathed more life into a story of what must have been an amazing person."
The most horrible transfer to DVD I've ever seen
Maximiliano Maza Perez | Monterrey, Mexico | 12/12/2007
(1 out of 5 stars)
"Althought Saura's "Antonieta" is frequently considered as a lesser work, this movie doesn't deserve the extremely poor transfer to DVD that Vanguard Cinema made. Obviously taken from a poor TV transmission, the image shows every imperfection you can imagine. I couldn't believe that, in the climatic scene, the film shows a "twisted" TV signal! Frankly A BIG ROBBERY. Please, don't buy this movie (at least the Vanguard Cinema edition)."
Un film médiocre d'une qualité excécrable!!!
Jacques | Athens, Greece | 11/09/2007
(1 out of 5 stars)
"C'est un film mineur de Saura mais malheureuseument il y a la sublime Isabelle Adjani!!! Alors j'ai été obligé de l'acheter. Quelle déception. La qualité est pire qu'une cassette VHS. La compagnie Vanguard qui l'a publié est-elle fière de ce produit? Je ne le crois pas!!! Alors fuyez en vitesse! Attendons une nouvelle publication d'un éditeur qui se respècte."
B-O-O-O-O-O-O-O-O-R-I-N-G ...and false.
Francisco J. Calderon | Mexico City, Mexico | 05/04/2010
(1 out of 5 stars)
"Horrible movie about someone the reviewers below know nothing about. Seeing this movie, I don't blame them.
About the character:
Antonieta Rivas Mercado was a Mexican writer and feminist. She was the wealthy daughter of a famed architect who sent her to Paris when events in Mexico took a turn for the worse in 1915. She wed a British subject, had a sad marriage and a son. She returned to her country to get divorced, didn't, and got involved in Mexico's artistic Renaissance under José Vasconcelos tenure as Education Minister (1922). She wrote poetry, theater, prose and journalism, though she is mostly remembered today for her private letters. A free spirit, she promptly fell madly in love with painter Manuel Rodríguez Lozano, who did not reciprocate, and was himself an unhappily married homosexual (by the way, Rodrígues Lozano's wife, Carmen Mondragón [a.k.a. "Nahui Ollin"] a stunning blond beauty, had a troubled life of her own to match Antonieta's. Raped by her father, despaired of her husband's sexual preferences, she drowned her baby in the tub, became a whore and died an old alcoholic homeless harpy by the time this movie came out).
Later on, Ms Rivas Mercado had an affair with Vasconcelos, who was running for President at the time (1929). His campaign gained the support of women (he promised them the vote), students, intellectuals and the middle class, but the revolutionary generals that ruled Mexico weren't about to take any chances: they rigged the election, murdered any protesters and exiled Vasconcelos to Europe -Antonieta along with him. Defeated, Vasconcelos became bitter, egotistical and self-absorbed. He soon tired of Antonieta and got rid of her. Alone, heart-broken, and having lost custody of her child, Antonieta shot herself inside Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral, February 11, 1931. Many years later, her son published her epistolar writings and she was awarded the success her times denied her.
About the movie:
This turkey was a paid job for Carlos Saura, who wasn't too exited about the project but obviously needed the money (it shows!). The Mexican Goverment was happy to oblige: Margarita López Portillo, sister of the then-president of Mexico and a self-styled "writer", ran the local movie industry, Goebbels-style by herself, and she envisioned this movie as a piece of veiled propaganda for the regime. The film tries desperately to be a showcase of Mexican Official Culture (ugh!), a mock to the Vasconcelos legacy (he is the moral founder of the PAN, and the movie is blatantly pro PRI), and to promote López-Portillo as an outspoken feminist (she wasn't). Due to Frida Kahlo's post mortem international recognition, there was a craze at the time for Avant Garde Mexican women from the Revolution, and López-Portillo wanted to cash on it. Boy, did she failed! If the movie was unwatchable then, it must be unendurable now: slow, false, didactic and boring. I remember a dreadful scene where Adjani and Diana Bracho watch actual movies from the Mexican Revolution, and they inform the audience who was who onscreen. I cringed my way out of my seat and never looked back! So should you! Trust me, avoid it at all costs!
By the way, yes: Isabelle Adjani doesn't look "Mexican" at all. No, she's not miscast: neither did Antonieta! In fact, she looked a lot like Diana Bracho, who doesn't look "Mexican" either. In fact, millions of Mexican women do not look "Mexican", if by "Mexican" one means dark skinned Amerindian features. We Mexicans come in all shapes, forms, genders and colors. Get rid of this Pantone mindframe, people; this is the XXI Century!"