La ley de Herodes (Luis Estrada, Mexico, 1999)

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I noticed a surprising number of people looking for scenes of Leticia Huijara in this title. So, as a believer in giving the public what they want no matter how prurient their tastes may be, I decided to take a look to see what the fuss was about. And sure enough you see Leticia’s bottom in it. And yes it really is fantastic. But more seriously, is the film as a whole worth watching?

I’m not a fan of modern cinema at all, so this being made as recently as 1999 (uhm, that’s 15 years ago now) I wasn’t expecting to enjoy Herod’s Law. One of the things I don’t like is the unnatural colour tints, where so often everything is tinged with an unappealing brown. But in this case it’s clearly deliberate, so extreme it verges on sepia, and works quite well at evoking a period atmosphere (the late 1940s that is). Also I find the aesthetic of the cramped vertical framing with people’s heads being chopped off at the crown, and the artificial camera movements done for show rather than suggesting the viewpoint of a human onlooker, both ugly and alienating from the human drama. These flaws are present here, but otherwise the photography is so strikingly bold that it compensates somewhat.

What of the story then? Basically it’s the tale of an Everyman (Damián Alcázar), a lowly apparatchik of the one-party state, sent to take charge as mayor of a remote and backward one-horse Mexican town. Presumably, his predecessors all having been lynched, he was regarded as expendable. But slowly, obeying the cruel dog eat dog law of nature of the title, he begins to take the village in hand. Mexican viewers have found the political satire exceptionally poignant, but for us outsiders we can only see it as a sort of blackly comic Western.

And a very lively and even amusing comedy it is too. The cast seem to fill their roles perfectly, especially Alcázar, and the dusty period atmosphere is very well recreated. Director Luis Estrada isn’t afraid to lay the imagery on a bit thick; raising the telegraph pole against the background of the cross on top of the church is a good example. Though it has a long running time of two hours there’s always some little drama or other going on to keep you amused, and the ending is suitably symbolic. Overall well worth a look.

Clip with Leticia Huijara

scene from Herod Leticia Huijara in Herod Leticia Huijara in Herod

Rating:   ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ 3/5

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“Herod’s Law” “Leticia Huijara” “Luis Estrada” “Mexican Cinema”
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Goodbye, 20th Century (Darko Mitrevski et al, Macedonia, 1998)

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Zbogum-na-dvaesetiot-vek-f87071021-001A three-part anthology from the former republic of war-torn Yugoslavia originally entitled Zbogum na dvaesetiot vek. The first part is a cross between El Topo (1970) and any random Italian post-apocalyptic biker flick. The bad guys are weighed down with orthodox Christian symbols as well as heavy machine guns, while our hero has nothing but a parasol to defend himself (and a pink one at that). I don’t fancy his chances in a duel – his stance is all wrong.

Zbogum-na-dvaesetiot-vek-f87071021-002So our hero, riddled with bullets, rises Christ-like from his shallow grave. It must be a satire on inner-purity versus the worldly corruption of the established church or something. The other two parts continue in this vein of the superficial “originality” in the treatment masking the banality of the themes. The high point is perhaps a rendition of My Way that puts Sid Vicious’s to shame for slurring tunelessness and accompanying hooliganism.

Zbogum-na-dvaesetiot-vek-f87071021-003Overall then, only recommended if you can’t tell the difference between visionary cinema and an “avant-garde” television commercial.

 

Zbogum-na-dvaesetiot-vek-f87071021-004 Zbogum-na-dvaesetiot-vek-f87071021-005 Zbogum-na-dvaesetiot-vek-f87071021-006
Clip: Sofija Kunovska strips full-frontal naked for a sex scene in the bath. (3:50 mins, 24MB)

Rating:   ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ 2/5

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“Goodbye 20th Century” “Darko Mitrevski” “Sofija Kunovska”
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