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Friday, August 30, 2013

Maria Candelaria

Movies are like books. They live their lives, with dreams and expectations, waiting for that moment giving them their full sense. And I think this is true for any work of art, literature or music, visual or performing art. Sometimes such a life is flowing along your own life, even if you are not aware. It sends you signals now and then, waiting patiently for the moment when you make the connection: the moment for which it has lived its whole life. Aisareru isshun ga watashi no subete ni naru - the moment you feel you are loved is a kernel squeezing your entire life.

I was a child when I heard first time about Maria Candelaria. I knew vaguely that it was a movie with a beautiful woman and a dramatic story of love, as Mexican movies always were. I cannot remember, maybe I have read a few lines about it in some cinema magazine, or maybe I saw once the movie poster, anyway I didn't have the chance to watch it. The name remained in my memory, sometimes coming at the surface and raising my curiosity: Maria Candelaria!

Years were passing, nobody mentioned this movie anymore, as new films were coming and old movies were forgotten, I was no more a child, then I realized that I was getting old, the name was coming to me very rarely, like in a brief dream: Maria Candelaria!

I didn't know who had starred in the movie. I thought that Pedro Armendáriz should have been the male lead, like in so many other Mexican movies of that epoch. What about the woman? Was she Maria Félix?

It took many decades till I started to look for information. No, it was not Maria Félix. The heroine of the movie was another great Mexican actress, Dolores del Rio.

And then I found the movie on youTube. Was it, for Maria Candelaria, that moment? Aisareru isshun ga watashi no subete ni naru?

A movie so far in time and space, isn't it too outdated? Or simply irrelevant? Xochimilco, the place where the story unfolds, is now an international tourist attraction, with its trajineras flowing over the myriad of canals, along the chinampas. What was in 1909 a harsh environment inhabited by primitive fold is now a space boasting its rich folklore. Still, there are people living there like in 1909, overwhelmed by poverty and by lack of any comfort. Living on those charming chinampas, surrounded by canals, lacking the running water and the drainage. Maybe they are no more hating the women whose mothers happened to have been prostitutes, but, look: all over the world, people still hate those who happen to be different. Difference of skin color, origin, religion, sexual orientation, and so many others.

Xochimilco today
trajineras over canals, along chinampas
source: Jflo23
no copyright infringement intended

Coming back to this movie made in 1943 and telling a story from 1909, I think the plot is consistent, the action is well led toward its outcome, but there is another merit that I consider more important: the film director (Emilio Fernández) knew how to look beyond the harshness and injustices of that life, beyond the casual villainy of those primitive people: he knew how to discover the profound poetry of that universe, with nature and humans sharing the same identity, molded by legends and traditions, by the good and the bad.

(Iberic and Iberic-American Cinema)


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