Wassup Rockers

Tick tick… BOOM!

Fuck, I totally forgot to write about Voy a explotar, which I saw at the Walter Reade a couple of weeks ago.  The director, Gerardo Naranjo, was there and he did a Q&A with Richard Peña.  Although I forgot to post about the movie, I was definitely left with a strong aftertaste for this movie, and it took me a long time to decide whether this aftertaste was good or bad.  I think the fact that it left such a mark on me is a great thing, but the narrative arc definitely bothered me.

But I can’t discuss it without spoiling it, yeah?  So go away if you don’t want to know all the details; I definitely recommend you watch the movie and then come back.

Well, in the story we have Maru and Román.  They’re teenagers, with all the crazy hormones that come with being one.  They’re full of angst and lack of direction and plenty of time in their hands.  Román has pulled plenty of pranks and gotten kicked out of plenty of schools, and his father’s pretty fed up with it.  When Román and Maru decide to “run away,” Román’s father, a conservative politician, isn’t very concerned because this sort of shit has happened before, but Maru’s mom is definitely more freaked out about it.  This gave me the sense that Maru, although bored of going through the motions of being in high school and being a regular girl, she doesn’t really transgress significantly until she finds Román and he’s this sort of catalyst for her to finally act out.

So they “run away,” which is only a pretension.  What they really do is get camping equipment and pitch a tent right on the roof of Román’s house.  In a land full of abductors looking to make a quick buck out of rich kids, these two kids are pretty safe.  They even enter the house while their families go out during the daytime to go searching for the kids, and the two have plenty of fun.  But of course, there’s this recurring thread of memento mori throughout the film.  The sense of nihilistic doom is palpable from the beginning.

Part of this is the question of how strong Román and Maru’s bond is.  Like with Romeo and Juliet, you have to wonder if it their connection is exclusively lust-driven, or if they really understand each other in a way to which the viewer isn’t privy.  And hey, they ain’t exactly explaining themselves eloquently in iambic pentameter (o en endecasílabos o versos alejandrinos o lo que sea).  Even Maru really wonders, and asks Román several times how he feels about her, until he finally answers in a somewhat silly way, “Te aaaaamo.  Te.  A.  Mo.”  He does look at her when he says it, so part of me feels like maybe he was sincere.  Part of me worries that he may have felt pressured to say the L word to her, but he also seems to have a hard time articulating his feelings about anything, so the fact that he admitted his love indicates that maybe it was real for him.  Because of instances such as this, he remained a bit of a mystery to me.

We do get glimpses of their inner thoughts in the form of voiceovers.  Maru keeps a journal, and she writes to a close friend who lives in DF.  We hear her thoughts and she shows quite a bit of self-reflection.  Most of the voiceovers come from her perspective.  Román only has one voiceover and it happens in the beginning of the film.  It’s meant to be some sort of suicide/confession letter, but it quickly becomes clear that he’s just acting out.  It’s performance art, words carefully chosen for full dramatic effect, and his actions, well, they get him sacked from school.  Sure, flinging around a firearm at your school teachers doesn’t help either, but that’s only part of the act.  It’s just severe enough for the school to take action and for him to get out of a place he hates, but it’s hard to tell how serious he is about shooting anyone.  Mostly it just sets this idea in us that he’s got a thing for guns.  Whatever he reveals in his voiceover is some sort of sinister farce, and we don’t get to the core of who Román is.

Maybe he’s hollow.

I am going to tell you what happens at the end.  Shit hits fan, et cetera, Maru is accidentally shot with Román’s gun and lands herself in the hospital, and Román, well, he ends up in another sort of hospital altogether.  Maru’s friends come visit her, but she doesn’t care, she’s still thinking about him.  So even though she’s still severely wounded, she runs away from the hospital to reach their predesignated hiding place.  Román runs away from the loony bin, too, and goes to the hiding place as well.  But the journey for Maru is too taxing, and as we see her become paler and paler we see that her wound is basically chorreando blood, right?  The two kids do meet up, but by then it’s too late, she’s dies in his arms, and you see him freaking out, which really cemented that he felt something deep for her PEEEEERO…

Here’s the thing.  During the entire movie, I thought that the casualty was going to be Román.  I was just waiting for him to off himself, exasperated with this world.  In fact, I feel like if the movie had run a bit longer, I’m positive he would he would have reached his real breaking point and experienced the full effect of Maru’s death on the boy.  I think he really would have committed suicide.

That was it.  That’s what bothered me.  It’s not so much that I wanted Román to die; rather, I was bothered by the fact that Maru did die.  Because to me it just became another instance of a girl stepping out of her place and being punished for her actions and for hanging with the wrong person.  Claro que (sobre)vivir también es una forma de castigo, but since I’m so sure that Román would have killed himself regardless (whether it was during or after the length of the film), I felt very sore that we had to lose Maru.

Why care so much about Maru?  One, I felt misguided since most of the voiceovers are in her POV.  The self-reflection she shows reveals that she is reaching out for something more.  Two, she reaches out to her family and her friends when she and Román “run away.”  She leaves her mom and her sister a video, apologizing and showing them that she’s okay.  When things get rocky, she makes a pit stop at a friend’s house, and her group of girl friends gather and support her.  Maru has a lot more to lose, she has people who care about her, unlike Román’s father, and I think as the movie moves along, she realizes this.  It’s true that in those final scenes she chooses Román, but there are also instances when we see her awareness that the world doesn’t just revolve around her.  That’s why I see her death as a punishment, because I could sense some growth and potential for redemption in her.  To a lesser degree, too, I felt she was being punished for taking action and choosing to do something bad like running away, being with a bad guy, and (ahem) having sex with him.  Man, it’s not like she was easy about it either, shouldn’t she have gotten bonus points for making him wait before having sex with him?  Or is it that any girl who has sex has to end up bleeding to death?  To see her life cut short without having the chance to change and mature…  after the credits rolled all I wanted to do was grab Gerardo Naranjo by the collar and scream at him, “¡NO ES JUSTO!”  Bah!

Actually, the Q&A was really great, though I think it would have been better to hear him in Spanish.  He could speak English very well, but I got the sense that I was missing some of the complexity of his answers and he’d be way more eloquent in his native language.  He spoke of how he had major issues with authority as a kid, so he got kicked out of quite a few schools himself.

He also spoke of how this movie was mostly improvised, with the kids especially just using slang with which Naranjo isn’t familiar, since he’s a bit older.  I was surprised by the overusage of the term “mamar” (in all sorts of ways) and the relative lack of “chingar,” which I always thought was apex of foul language in Mexican.  But what the hell do I know!

I think the statement I found most interesting was when he said that there seems to be a void in Mexican cinema that needs to be filled.  The best known Mexican directors at the moment are Alfonso Cuarón, Guillermo del Toro, and Alejandro González Iñárritu, but that all three of them haven’t worked in Mexico for a long time.  Naranjo mentioned that there are some directors like himself who are trying to keep their artistic integrity and to challenge themselves, and he mentioned others such as Plá and Reygadas, but that these newer directors are having difficulty getting recognition within their country because their works aren’t the most people-friendly and/or pandering to the lower common denominator.  There are a lot of issues with funding and shit because of that.  But at the very least, some of the more outstanding artists get a chance to shop around their films internationally and maybe even get a small run at the Film Society at Lincoln Center, right?


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