A Presumptious and Long Bore
Kardius | USA | 12/09/2005
(1 out of 5 stars)
"Don't be fooled by the title and the sultry DVD cover, this film has very little in it that is erotic. Arturo Ripstein may be regarded as an important director and he does have several bonafide Mexican film classics to his credit (if you haven't, you should check out "El lugar sin limites", arguably his best film), but that hasn't stopped him from making some really bad films over the last years, that only some critics seem to like. "La virgen de la lujuria" starts off promisingly with an amusing parody of movie trailers, but then the movie quickly stalls. Its basic problem is that it tries to accomplish too much and does it very poorly and, worst of all, boringly. At over two hours, its also excruciatingly long. The film is full of symbolism (put-upon Indian waiter, Spanish exiles, presumably Spanish female object of desire, macho Mexican wrestlers) that never develops into fully realized characters, despite the best efforts of a wasted cast of talented actors who are made to say some of the most pompous lines in contemporary Latin American cinema. (Spanish star Ariadna Gil, in particular, has the most unfortunate lines of dialogue.) Ripstein is one of those directors that has some really die-hard fans (see some of the other reviews), but unless you're one of them, or unless your idea of a good movie is that it should be excruciatingly long and boring, then I really recommend that you skip this one."
Arturo Ripstein and his Essential Loneliness of Souls
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 03/18/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"LA VIRGEN DE LA LUJURIA (Virgin of Lust) is a film that takes patience on the part of the viewer: not only is it two and a half hours in length, it requires a working background in Spanish history of colonialization of the Americas and Franco's Spanish rule during WW II, magical realism, and surrealism to fully appreciate how truly unique this story is.
Arturo Ripstein is Mexico's premiere film director and for those who have followed his output, his works reflect his apprenticeship with Luis Bunuel and his preoccupation with recurring themes of loneliness and his somber, slow style of directing. The convoluted story of LA VIRGEN DE LA LUJURIA at first watching seems to contain information overload that gets in the way of this opera/ballet art piece. That may put some viewers off: it is work to follow this storyline on that level.
But if the viewer can reduce the story to its symbolism and focus on that alone, then this is a fascinating film that takes all manner of chances (crude language, aberrant sexuality, fantasies, main characters breaking into song from Gilbert and Sullivan's 'Mikado' to patriotic ditties and romantic swooners, bizarre camera effects such as raining inside a room, etc).
Apparently it is important to understand the disparity between the Spanish colonialists and the native South American/Mexican peoples: power vs subjugation, cultural vs peasant mentality, the concept of dichotomy of Spanish exiles in the land of Spain's colonies with the superimposition of escaped Spaniards from Franco's rule and the opposition of Franco devotees. At least it helps to explain the odd love story that unfolds here in Vera Cruz.
Nacho (Luis Felipe Tovar) is a Native Mexican cum supplanted Spaniard waiter in a hotel cafe Ofelia run by Don Lazaro (Julian Pastor) who is a devote Francophile. Don Lazaro keeps Nacho in his servitude place, demands he serve the freeloader Spaniard guests who plot to kill Franco, and reinforces Nacho's low esteem.
Enter Lola (Adriana Gil), a drunken, opium addicted prostitute whose only preoccupation is with the perfect sexual partner of her life, on Gardenia Wilson (Alberto Estrella) who happens to make his living as a masked wrestler. Lola accepts protection from Nacho, eventually abusing the frightened soul who has fallen in lust with her. Lola dreams of killing Franco and it is this avenue that Nacho decides is his entry into Lola's love - killing Franco for her. Working with a photographer Gimeno/Mikado (Juan Diego) who spends his hours creating retablos of history using actors on sets for his strange photographs, Nacho ultimately is given the 'role' of the exterminator of Franco. It is unnecessary to say that the ending of the story does not match Nacho's dreams, but instead surrealism and magical realism enter to provide a twist that is most entertaining.
Though I thought I could summarize this film in fewer words than I have, I hope this brief distillation will encourage you to give this work a chance. There is a lot of exciting lighting, scenery, music, strange metaphors and parables, and just plain exciting direction to be enjoyed by the patient viewer. Relax on the historical parts and the obvious contradictions with reality and you will get a sense of Director Ripstein's importance! Grady Harp, March 05"
An Eerie Love Story of Obsession and Power...
Kim Anehall | Chicago, IL USA | 02/24/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Old South American colonies that once belonged to Spain and Portugal were left in a dark period seeking their own identity after they gained their own freedom. The colonial values were still intact in many of the countries of the South American continent, as old money from the colonial period was still in political control of the many nations. The rich got richer while the poor grew in numbers. It was a time of much difficulty among the people of South America, as people from the old world continued to immigrate to this continent. Europe was emerging the war of all wars, World War II. Spain was under the dark shadow of Francisco Franco, which brought many political refugees to seek sanctuary in the old colonies that once belonged to them. In the backdrop of this socioeconomic disaster that has been charged through a political storm generated throughout the world unfolds a bizarre love story about a Native Mexican waiter.
The waiter, Nacho (Luis Felipe Tovar), is one of the Mexican natives that once belonged to the class below the colonial population that had arrived from Europe. Despite the freedom given to Mexico he is still serving the people with European descent in Cafe Ofélia in Vera Cruz. Nacho's boss, Don Lázaro (Julián Pastor), often bullies him with derogatory names while commenting on his lack of masculinity, which Nacho merely accepts as if it was normal. Lázaro openly displays his pride for his Spanish ancestors while vocally expressing his strong support for the Spanish dictator Franco. This illustrates the psychosocial interaction between Nacho and Lázaro, which seems to have its roots in the old colonial time when the Europeans were masters and the natives' servants.
Nacho dreams of being empowered, but does not know how to go about being powerful. It appears as if he has been socialized into a mindset that accepts an inferior position in society. This is ultimately clear through his affection for the gorgeous Lola (Ariadna Gil), an opium-puffing prostitute with a heavy habit to gulp large amounts of alcohol. Lola does not reciprocate the strong emotions that Nacho displays, as she has already committed herself sexually to a strong and mysterious wrestler named Gardenia Wilson (Alberto Estrella). Relationships that Lola builds on love and affection are expressed exclusively through physical affection, as she is inept to build a meaningful relationship. Nacho's inferior position and behavior does not stimulate Lola, as he desires to kiss and lick her feet. This is further developed through Lola's sadomasochistic relationship to Nacho, which never renders him physical affection as she continues to tease him throughout the story.
Visitors come and go to Cafe Ofélia while Nacho struggles with his misery and broken heart. Four of these visitors, Spanish exiles, continue to visit on a daily basis while only smoking and drinking whatever is free. Lázaro informs Nacho that it is essential that he serves them, and stays at the café for as long as they stay. For Lázaro it means more than money to uphold his Spanish legacy, which he does through being friendly with the Spanish freeloaders. These visitors are four different characters in regards to politics and beliefs, but they do agree on one thing - Franco must die. Nacho learns about Franco through the four men, which indulge him into dreaming of killing Franco for a romantic purpose in order to gain Lola's interest.
Nacho befriends one of these Spanish political refugees Gimeno (Juan Diego), as he learns about photography and his revolutionary ideas. Nacho builds the friendship with Gimeno through offering free meals while sharing their affection for opera, especially the Mikado, but for different reasons. Through Gimeno Nacho is exposed to new ideas that he applies to his destructive relationship with Lola. The question is will Nacho relieve himself from the chains of the past and become the man like Gardenia?
Virgin of Lust is shot with what appears to be a short lens, which makes the rooms and décor come across grander than in real life. The photography uses much brown and yellow to accentuate the time of the story, as the film will remind the audience of old sepia photography. There is also a heavy use of yellowish-green or shiny dark green, which brings notions of jealously, sickness, and greed to the film. These are creative touches by the Arturo Ripstein, who once was an assistant to Luis Buñuel, but this film has Ripstein's personal touch and is unrelated to his former mentor's. The final product is an eerie love story of obsession, power, and rejection, which uses political themes such as socioeconomic grouping, colonialism, and revolution to make the story come alive."