Mas­ter film­maker re­flects on Mex­ico City child­hood

Sun Sentinel Palm Beach Edition - Showtime - Palm Beach - - MOVIES - By Michael Phillips

Al­fonso Cuaron’s new film, “Roma,” gives you so much to see in each new vi­gnette, in ev­ery in­di­vid­ual com­po­si­tion, that a sec­ond view­ing be­comes a plea­sur­able ne­ces­sity rather than a film­go­ing lux­ury.

This time of year, I barely have time to see a movie once let alone twice, even with all the in­fer­nal qual­ity cur­rently on screens mak­ing de­mands of my band­width. I’ll just plop this one in my Net­flix queue.

The coun­ter­ar­gu­ment to that lament is pretty sim­ple: “Roma” re­wards your time, beau­ti­fully. It moves with im­pla­ca­ble as­sur­ance, at times nearly los­ing its char­ac­ters in­side wri­ter­di­rec­tor-cine­matog­ra­pher Cuaron’s bog­gling, fas­tid­i­ously packed widescreen frames, pho­tographed dig­i­tally in 65 mil­lime­ter black and white.

Time will re­veal whether it’s a mas­ter­work with qual­i­fy­ing as­ter­isks or a mas­ter­work, pe­riod. “Roma” casts a spell and re-cre­ates a spe­cific time, place and col­lec­tion of per­sonal mem­o­ries in ways that will con­nect, I sus­pect, with mil­lions.

The story takes place in MPAA rat­ing: R (for graphic nu­dity, some dis­turb­ing im­ages, and lan­guage) Run­ning time: 2:15 Opens: Stream­ing on Net­flix start­ing Dec. 14. In Span­ish and Mix­tec with English sub­ti­tles. 1970 and 1971 in Mex­ico City, and in other parts of Cuaron’s home­land wracked by so­ci­etal un­rest. The un­rest in­side one par­tic­u­lar home, and fam­ily, be­comes the mi­cro­cosm for those larger forces. The ti­tle refers to the Colo­nia Roma district where Cuaron grew up, and he ded­i­cates the pic­ture to the nanny/house­keeper who helped raise him at a par­tic­u­larly wob­bly time in the fu­ture di­rec­tor’s life.

The fic­tional ver­sion of that care­giver, Cleo, is played by new­comer Yal­itza Apari­cio, a school­teacher who never acted pro­fes­sion­ally prior to “Roma.” Her warm, steady pres­ence be­comes the flame for the episodic yet mag­i­cally fluid nar­ra­tive.

Cleo is of Mix­teco Me­soamer­i­can back­ground, one of count­less vil­lagers who work for fam­i­lies like the one in “Roma.” The chil- dren of Cuaron’s fic­tion­al­ized fam­ily are sec­ondary; this is a tale of two mother fig­ures, the other ma­tri­arch be­ing Sofia (Ma­rina De Tavira).

“Roma” glides from mo­men­tous in­ci­dent to in­ci­dent. Huge events are shown to us by way of pe­cu­liar small de­tails. A Mex­ico City earth­quake is de­picted as ceil­ing rub­ble fall­ing on an in­cu­ba­tor in a hospi­tal ward. Cuaron’s story piles on po­ten­tially melo­dra­matic story turns, but the long takes make us both ob­servers and par­tic­i­pants in a mashup of his­tor­i­cal pageant and mem­oir.

Jacques Tati’s “Play­time” (1967) may be the film “Roma” re­sem­bles most in its aes­thet­ics and its demo­cratic ap­proach to fill­ing a frame to burst­ing. A lot of the de­tail comes straight out of Cuaron’s child­hood home, and his mem­o­ries of the lo­cal Mex­ico City cin­e­mas and streets. None of that would mean much un­less it all came alive as some­thing more than a per­sonal in­ven­tory. Cuaron’s mem­o­ries have turned into a mar­vel of craft, and one of the year’s very finest achieve­ments. Michael Phillips is a Tri­bune critic.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.