Posted by paulrivas on:
Arráncame la vida (Tear This Heart Out)
2008, 110 min., Roberto Sneider
Mexico entry for Academy Awards Best Foreign Film
Of the two big money Mexican features to choose from, I went for the one about machista politicians and the women who love them.
Set in 1930s Puebla and Mexico City, Arráncame la vida is based on the novel by Angeles Mastretta about the resourceful young bride of a predictably corrupt politician at the dawn of the PRI party’s 70 years of control of the Mexican government. The PRI’s reign ended July 2, 2000, eight days after the Santa Barbara Man About Goleta arrived in Mexico City for six months as a university exchange student.
Mexican politicians in the 1930s lived the good life made possible by bad deeds, and this movie’s got everything: teenage mothers, assassinations, infidelity, female masturbation and two hours of high Mexican profanity. If you appreciate Mexican Spanish, Arráncame la vida is a must. If you don’t speak a word of Spanish, it’ll make you want to go to Mexico and learn. The landscapes, fancy cars, cowboy get-up, tequila, military uniforms and women are all impeccable.
Director Robert Sneider and actor José María de Tavira – both of whom have much lighter skin than this half-Mexican – answered a few questions after the Saturday night screening.
de Tavira plays Carlos Vives, the leftist sympathizing symphony conductor who’s porking the general’s wife. The audience addressed him as Carlos, which he didn’t mind. His favorite question, which he claimed to never have been asked before, was on which conductors he studied to prepare to play Vives, whose presence in the novel is intense and fleeting.
“I did loads of research and studied quite a lot,” the young güero answered in English, looking like a nerdy Gael García Bernal. He relied on the history of Carlos Chávez, the “way of being” of Eduardo Mata and the body movements of Carlos Kleiber to inform his role.
Sneider appeared proud to have made a film about a period he described as yet untreated in Mexican film. Regarding the predictable sweeping landscape shot with which the film ends, Sneider said, “We thought it was appropriate to have a classical style of filmmaking.”
Rivas Cultural Services describes Arráncame la vida as a flashier and more mainstream vehicle for the same anti-PRI case made in the 1999 instant classic La ley de Herodes (Herod’s Law). La ley de Herodes: now there’s a movie about Mexican politics with plenty of whoring, cursing and racketeering that doesn’t have a cheesy ending and was made with a much smaller budget, while still celebrating Mexico’s film tradition. La ley de Herodes was originally censored by the Mexican film board but eventually released to fantastic box office success.
When I asked Sneider if he thought he could have made his film 10 years ago, he said he had tried but been unable to obtain funding. He emphasized that since 2007, however, there is a new corporate tax incentive for film production in place in Mexico that is making it much easier for directors to get their projects funded.
Sneider’s next film is based on the novel Ciudades desiertas (Deserted Cities) by José Agustín, in which a Mexican couple goes to Iowa on vacation in wintertime. The couple is traveling on a tourist visa, “which is a really novel idea here,” said Sneider.
I will make an effort to see Sneider’s next movie because José Agustín is a favorite of Rivas Cultural Services. As for Tear This Heart Out, if you watch it amid the Oscar hype and find it to be very enjoyable but not mind-blowing, do yourself a favor and go rent Herod's Law.