Golden Ariel Winning Film from Roberto Gavaldon (1951)
Curtis Allan | Seattle, WA | 10/27/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"En La Palma de Tu Mano won the Golden Ariel (Mexican Best Pic "Oscar") for 1951. The great strength of the film is Arturo de Cordoba's performance as a silk-tongued soothsaying grifter, Karin (ergo the film-noirish double-entendre title: "In the Palm of Your Hand"). De Cordoba is spellbinding as he delivers his elegant lines with simultaneous Shakespearean precision and forties grifter style; he evokes an enchanting Mexican blend of Olivier and Bogart. The settings, while never wide in scale, are perhaps the next most interesting part of this film. Karin has his business and residence in a building just up an alley facing the Juarez monument (from the 20 peso bill) and the Alameda Central (Mexico's Central Park). Was it really filmed there? It sure looked like it. Scenes in the countryside around the Valley of Mexico also evoke the quaint and charming city Mexico used to be before the 1960s. Finally, the numerous elegant residences and buildings evoke in a knowledgeable viewer memories of the dictators, Spanish viceroys, conquistadors, and Mexica emperors who previously held sway over the very same terrain over the course of the previous seven centuries of the city's history. One wonders if Cordoba carried any of their genes in his background.
Director Roberto Gavaldon, very well respected in his time, has suffered from a fair amount of criticism from later generations of Mexican cineastes for his stylistic imitation of contemporary American film. Watching En La Palma de tu Mano, I found myself mostly in agreement with those critics. Personally, I am less concerned with his influences than the results of his work, but that is where Gavaldon fell short for me. While this film is technically competent, he doesn't seem to end it with any level of creativity, leaving the viewer somewhat unsatisfied when they most needed something interesting to happen. And he didn't have a Hayes Code to blame. But that is a distinction between great and just good. I would still heartily recommend this film to anyone interested in classic international or Mexican cinema.
It's interesting to note that while Gavaldon is criticized for imitating American films, I couldn't help but see an influence of this film upon Bunuel's later work, El (1953), a film which was incidentally supposed to have been quite influential upon Hitchcock's Vertigo (1958). That would be quite ironic if there were any truth to it.
Regarding this DVD version, it is bare bones with only scene selections and a brief incomplete filmography of de Cordoba. Image and audio are OK. There are no subtitles in English or Spanish, which would have been nice as the dialogue is rapid and fairly sophisticated. That said, this is the only DVD version available in Mexico or the U.S., so if you can understand Spanish and like Mexican cinema you should definitely buy this as it's not priced much higher than a rental or two anyways.