Saturday, April 28, 2012

Y Tu Mama Tambien

Directed by Alfonso Cuaron and written by Alfonso and Carlos Cuaron, Y Tu Mama Tambien (And Your Mother Too) is the story of two teenage boys who go on a road trip through Mexico with a Spanish woman in her late 20s. There, the young boys deal with the rules they have created as they fall for this woman as they all try to reach a secret beach. The film is a coming-of-age film of sorts set in 1999 Mexico where the political landscape was changing. With narration by Daniel Gimenez Cacho, the film stars Gael Garcia Bernal, Diego Luna, Andreas Almeida, Ana Lopez Mercado, Maria Aura, and Maribel Verdu. Y Tu Mama Tambien is a dreamy yet powerful road drama from Alfonso Cuaron.

With their girlfriends Ana (Ana Lopez Mercado) and Cecilia (Maria Aura) leaving for a trip to Europe, their respective boyfriends in Tenoch Iturbide (Diego Luna) and Julio Zapata (Gael Garcia Bernal) figure out what to do for the summer. Hanging out with their friend Saba (Andreas Almeida), the two have no idea what to do as they become bored until Tenoch’s sister is getting married as his father is a high-ranking government official. With the middle-class Julio also attending, the two meet up with a beautiful woman from Spain named Luisa (Maribel Verdu) whose novelist/professor husband Jano (Juan Carlos Remolina) is Tenoch’s cousin. After chatting with Luisa about a mysterious beach called la Boca del Cielo (Heaven’s Mouth), the two decide if they want to go to that beach.

After learning that Jano had been cheating on her, Luisa decides to go to the beach with Tenoch and Julio as they borrow Julio’s sister station wagon for this long road trip. There, Luisa learns about the boys’ manifesto that is filled with lots of rules as they drive through rural parts of Mexico as Luisa is still hurt over Jano’s confession. After the car’s radiator gets overheated as they stop in a town, the depressed Luisa would have sex with Tenoch to Julio’s confusion where makes a startling confession. Things start to get tense between the two friends as Luisa would also have sex with Julio where Tenoch would also make a confession driving a wedge between the two friends.

After Luisa eases the tension and taking over, the three finally land on a beach where they meet a fisherman named Chuy (Silverio Palacios) and his family who takes them to la Boca del Cielo where they hang out with his family and have a great time. There, the three would ultimately have the time of their lives while the two boys would face an uncertain future in the trip‘s aftermath.

The film is essentially a road drama where two teenage boys and an older woman travel through Mexico to go to a mysterious beach as they would deal with personal issues about themselves while the friendship of the boys is also tested by temptation and startling confessions. Throughout this coming-of-age journey through rural Mexico, there’s a lot that is happening around them told through a narrator who reveals bits about the lives of the characters as well as the surroundings where things are changing.

The screenplay that Alfonso and Carlos Cauron creates is a story that bends genres where it’s a coming-of-age film of sorts with elements of the road movie as well as a melodrama of sorts that concerns the character of Lucia who is dealing with a lot of things including her husband’s infidelity. It’s also a film about sex where Tenoch and Julio each have girlfriends but neither of them are very experienced as indicated by their many rules including their own sexual moments with Lucia. During this journey, the friendship between Tenoch and Julio starts to disintegrate because they each broke the rules that they and their other friends made. By the time they arrive at the beach and things seem to calm down between the three, there is an uncertainty over what will happen.

The screenplay also succeeds in not just creating characters that are very interesting as well as flawed but also manage to find a way to utilize the narration to be part of the story. Notably as it unveils some details into the lives of its characters while providing insight to the places the main characters encounter. Some of it involves a lot of the political changes that is surrounding Mexico as the film is set in 1999 as its penultimate scene reveals the end of the PRI party reign. Throughout the narration and the dialogue of the character, there is also an element where the Cuaron brothers take shots at the chauvinistic attitude towards homosexuality. Notably as Tenoch and Julio reveal that one of their friends is gay and they have a hard time dealing with it because homosexuality was sort of frowned upon in Mexico at that time. It’s a very complex and drawn-out script that does a lot while not straying into conventional ideas of drama.

Cuaron’s direction is truly entrancing in the way he presents the film through its wandering images and uncompromising ideas towards sex. Notably as the film opens with Tenoch and his girlfriend having sex as they make a vow to not stray into their relationship. Cuaron doesn’t shy away from the fact that the sex will be open and exposed though it doesn’t stray too far into explicit content. Plus, it’s presented with humor as there’s a scene of Tenoch and Julio masturbating on diving boards where a shot of semen is dropped onto the pool. It’s among the many uncompromising ideas Cuaron wants to display in his approach to sex as well as making it feel real.

Since the film is shot on location in various place of Mexico, there is a cinema verite style to the shoot as it includes a lot of hand-held camera work to get into some crowd scenes or smaller moments in the rural parts of Mexico to focus on something that is actually happening. Notably as the camera is always there to exemplify the beauty that is Mexico from its poorest areas to the rich parties such as Tenoch’s sister’s wedding where the Mexican president is present. Overall, Cuaron creates a truly delightful and hypnotic road film that bends various genres and gives a very uncompromising approach towards sex.

Cinematographer Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki does amazing work with the film‘s rich cinematography that is filled with amazing natural lights for many of the film‘s daytime exterior shots and locations including the beach along with some gorgeous lighting schemes for some of its nighttime interior shots. Editor Alex Rodriguez, with Cuaron, does excellent work with the editing to play up some the rhythm of some of the film‘s sex scenes as well as hilarious comic montages involving Tenoch and Julio that doesn‘t delve into fast-cuts by emphasizing on a more methodical approach to the pacing. Production designers Marc Bedia and Miguel Angel Alvarez, with set decorator Roberto Loera and co-art director Diana Quiroz, do superb work with the set pieces such as the posh home of Tenoch‘s family to the middle-class home of Julio‘s family with some of the set pieces like a local ceremony Tenoch, Julio, and Luisa encounter.

Costume designer Gabriela Diaque does wonderful work with the costumes from the casual clothing of its characters to the gorgeous white dress that Luisa wears at the wedding party. Sound designer Ruy Garcia does fantastic work with the sound from the atmosphere of the parties to the intimate sounds of the beach locations the characters are at. Music supervisors Annette Fradera and Liza Richardson do brilliant work in creating a music soundtrack that mixes to various genres. From low-key ambient pieces from Brian Eno, Bran Van 3000, Miho Hatori, and Natalie Imbruglia to wild alternative Mexico music from CafĂ© Tacuba and Molotov with Dub Pistols. Along with music by Eagle Eye Cherry covering the Bee Gees and Senor Coconut covering Kraftwerk, there’s also ranchero music and a wonderful ballad by Marco Antonio Solis in one of the film’s key moments. Playing in the closing credits is the soaring Watermelon in Easter Hay by Frank Zappa.

The casting by Manuel Teil is incredible for the cast that is assembled as it features appearances from Emilio Echevarria as Tenoch’s dad, Diana Bracho as Tenoch’s mother, Juan Carlos Remolina as Luisa’s husband Jano, and Silverio Palacios as the Campos-loving fisherman Chuy. Other notable roles include Ana Lopez Mercado and Maria Aura as the respective girlfriends of Tenoch and Julio in Ana and Cecilia. The film’s funniest performance comes from Andreas Almeida as Tenoch and Julio’s stoner friend Saba who always likes to get high and be cool with the people.

Maribel Verdu is phenomenal as Luisa, the wife of Tenoch’s cousin who is dealing with her own existential issues as well as her husband’s infidelity as she goes on a trip to escape while teaching the young boys how to seduce women as it’s a very entrancing yet mesmerizing performance from the Spanish actress. Finally, there’s Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna in outstanding performances in their respective roles of Julio and Tenoch. With Bernal as the middle class Julio and Luna as the more posh Tenoch, the two bring a lot of humor and energy to their characters as well as a sense of humility when the two betray each other. In the scenes they have with Verdu, the chemistry between the three is engaging and intoxicating in the way they play each other out as they all give very lively performances.

***Additional Text Relating to DVD Releases Written from 12/31/14-1/4/15***

The 2002 Region 1 DVD for the film presents it in its 1:85:1 theatrical aspect ratio in 16x9 widescreen enhanced for widescreen televisions with 5.1 Surround Sound in Spanish with English subtitles. The special features on the DVD include a TV spot and a trailer for the film’s U.S. release as a feature-length audio commentary track from actors Gael Garcia Bernal, Diego Luna, and Andres Almeida. The commentary is in Spanish where one of its drawbacks is that the commentary doesn’t feature subtitles yet it is quite humorous and lively for the fact that they talk about sex and aspects on the film’s production. The special features also includes 4-minutes of three deleted scenes from the film as two of them are scenes set on the road where they meet an old man and another where Tenoch, Julio, and Lucia talk about sex. The third deleted scene involves a scene where Cecilia tries to give Julio a hand job on their way to the airport.

Two other major special features on the DVD release is a 23-minute making-of documentary on the film as it’s one of the most enjoyable and in-depth looks into making the film. It’s a documentary that explores some of the elements of fun in making the film as well as a few pranks Alfonso Cuaron and his crew would do on Maribel Verdu because she is Spanish and the film is set on location in Mexico. Other things on the documentary involve some of the antics involving Cuaron and producer Jorge Vergara as it’s a very lively and fun making-of doc to watch. The final major special feature is a short film by Carlos Cuaron entitled Me La Debes (You Owe Me One) as this 12-minute short revolves a man returning home unaware that his daughter’s boyfriend is in the house while the man is having an affair with his maid. It’s a very funny short that plays into the world of sex from Carlos Cuaron.

The 2014 Region 1/Region A 2-disc DVD/1-disc Blu-Ray dual-disc release from the Criterion Collection presents the film in a brand new 2k digital transfer for its original 1:85:1 theatrical aspect ratio under the supervision of Cuaron and cinematographer Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki. Along with a newly remastered 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround Sound in Spanish with newly improved English subtitles translation as the film looks and sounds more beautiful in its new remastered presentation. The DVD set retains not just the TV spots, the trailers, the deleted scenes, the making-of documentary, and Carlos Cuaron’s short from the 2002 MGM DVD all in remastered form. It also includes two new special features relating to the film.

The first is a 52-minute section of interviews as it features 11-minutes of old interviews with the Cuaron brothers, Lubezki, Bernal, Luna, and Verdu during its production in 2001. Alfonso talks about the genesis of the idea dating back to the early 90s before he would helm his first feature in Solo con tu Pareja in 1991 as it took years to get the project going. The cast and crew talked about the production while Bernal and Luna talked about their longtime friendship and how they often competed for their roles. Lubezki also discusses his collaboration with Cuaron which dates back to the mid-80s as they both were yearning to evolve in their collaboration. The 2014 41-minute interviews with the same personnel, minus Lubezki, discuss about the film and how it evolved during the production as Bernal and Luna talked about their audition process as the former suggested the latter to Alfonso who was reluctant about hiring Luna because he was a soap star at the time. The biggest coup in the production was getting Verdu on board as she was a major star in Spain as Verdu talked about her experiences as well as the fact that Bernal, Luna, and Alfonso were all fighting each other to get her attention.

She also talked about the slang in the film and Cuaron’s approach to improvisation which she found freeing as an actress. Cuaron also talks about a lot of the film’s influences which were primarily films of Jean-Luc Godard and the French New Wave which inspired the film’s narration. It’s a very amazing interview segment that includes some rare onset photos as well as to see the cast and crew be quite upbeat about the film and its legacy. The nine-minute interview with philosopher Slavoj Zizek about the film’s political/social commentary on the film is a very enjoyable interview where Zizek discusses a lot of the film’s approach to narrative and why it shot Mexico as it is. Some of Zizek’s comments are quite humorous while playing into the main story about Tenoch and Julio as they each represent different classes and political backgrounds as it relates to some of the events that was happening in Mexico. Yet, Zizek also plays into the theme of maturity and how bitter it can be since the idea of change isn’t something easy to accept.

The DVD features a booklet that features an essay by film critic Charles Taylor of the Yale Review in an essay titled Dirty Happy Things. Taylor’s essay explores much of the film’s sexual content but also the theme of maturity that parallels with the sense of change that would emerge in Mexico. Taylor discusses the film with Cuaron’s other films in how they’re all related as well as discuss some of the political context that is in the background in the film. It’s a very engaging essay that understands the film as a road trip, a coming-of-age film, a political film, and a romantic film. The dual-disc set features character bios by Alfonso and Carlos Cuaron on the three principle characters that explores much of their background as it would be used in the film’s final product. The DVD/Blu-Ray set is definitely one of the finest additions to the Criterion Collection it deserves its place to be among the list of great films in that home video series.

***End of DVD Tidbits***

Y Tu Mama Tambien is marvelous yet evocative film from Alfonso Cuaron featuring top-notch performances from Gael Garcia Bernal, Diego Luna, and Maribel Verdu. The film is definitely not just one of the best films to come out of Mexico but also one of the great international film treasures from the last decade. It’s a film that show Cuaron being fearless in his depiction towards sexuality without going too far as well as a very human drama about a road trip that would be unforgettable. In the end, Y Tu Mama Tambien is an extraordinarily rich and intoxicating film from Alfonso Cuaron.

© thevoid99 2012


Chip Lary said...

Good review. I watched this years ago in the midst of a mini-Mexican film sequence with Garcia-Bernal (Amores Perros and The Crime of Padre Amaro).

thevoid99 said...

Thank you. I originally wanted to write an essay on this film but I couldn't come up with anything. Plus, I'm waiting for the Criterion DVD as I've retained some of the DVD tidbits I wrote in my original review almost a decade ago. I'll re-edit and expand it for the upcoming Criterion release.