Latest posts by Alexander P. Garza (see all)
- Review: Little Rooster’s Egg-cellent Adventure (Un Gallo Con Muchos Huevos) - October 30, 2015
- Review: Behavior (Conducta) - June 17, 2015
- Lorís Simón Salum and the Literally Short Film Festival - June 12, 2015
I was pretty excited about seeing the 2014 release of Cantinflas. It’s not a biopic and it doesn’t even seem like a sincere dedication to honor Mario Moreno or his work. Instead it kind of meanders through too many plot lines and didn’t focus enough on Cantinflas’ story. Now, that is not to say that he didn’t get enough screen time, or we didn’t get to see enough of Oscar Jaenada perform as Cantinflas, but instead, that the story was pulled in so many different directions, that by the end of the film, I was confused as to what I had just seen.
The film was directed by Sebastian Del Amo who also co-wrote the screenplay with Edui Tijerina. The film starred Oscar Jaenada as Cantinflas/Mario Moreno, Michael Imperioli as Michael Todd, and Ilse Salas as Valentina Ivanova, Moreno’s wife. The film has been submitted to be in the nominations for Best Picture for the 57th Ariel Awards in Mexico, which will be announced tomorrow! It was released in 2014 and was submitted by Mexico for the nominations for Best Foreign Language Film in the 2015 Oscars (formerly The Academy Awards), but was rejected. After watching it, I can honestly say I’m not surprised. The film had so much potential, especially with Jaenada and Imperioli serving up some outstanding performances. Despite Imperioli’s great onscreen portrayal of Producer Michael Todd, I am not sure that Todd’s story line should have played such a large role in the supposed biopic about Cantinflas/Mario Moreno. The film starts the story with Michael Todd and his trouble getting the stars he needs to reassure film executives that Around The World in 80 Days will be a success and deserves the funding it needs. It ends with Moreno winning the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in 1957.
In between, we have multiple stories happening. We have Moreno trying to discover what he should be doing with his life, discovering he has natural talent, we have him falling in love, then having marital problems, finding out he and his wife can’t have children, having problems with traditional film directors who don’t understand his work, having problems with his friend, Estanislao Shilinsky (Luis Gerardo Mendez) -who was also awesome-, having an identity crisis, then finally deciding to go film Around the World in 80 Days, which resolves Todd’s problem- then he gets his wife back by laying out rose pedals and setting up an outdoor candlelit dinner which supposedly is enough to convince her he is a changed man.
We’ve got Michael Todd, who I feel is the real center character in the story (not necessarily of the entire film), who is trying desperately to get Elizabeth Taylor, Frank Sinatra, and Mario Moreno (Cantinflas) to sign on to the film so that he can get the backing he needs form United Artists. He is dealing with J.C. Montes-Roldan who plays Maurice, the primary tangible antagonist (the “system”, as it’s referred to, is the other intangible antagonist). Now, the character that Montes-Roldan plays seems to be overplaying this part- and I can’t tell if it’s because of the directing or the acting choices. It’s over the top. Villain, villain, villain! To be honest, I checked out his demo reel, and he seems to know how to be real, pick up on nuances, and externally portray thoughts and decisions that are relative to the plot (I will be checking out his film Cinco de Mayo: La Batalla soon). It seems that the script or overall production just did not give him what he needed to provide the level of depth that a character should have in order for him to be compelling on the screen.
There are a myriad of character Hollywood cameos and even some stars that were a pleasure to see, like Joaquín Cosio (El Infierno – 2010). Overall, this film was a good one. Although the story line was seriously lacking, which seemed to spill over into poor character development among the antagonist, Cantinflas was a neat spectacle with interesting historic tidbits, and honorable performances by Janaeda, Imperioli, Salas, and Mendez. The cinematography by Carlos Hidalgo really lent this film to make us feel like we were back in the 1930s through the 1950s, and he established some of the most beautiful shots using color, symmetry, and space to help tell the story (or lack thereof).
I will watch this film again, and recommend it to you, especially if you don’t know who Cantinflas is or if you’ve never seen any of his work. This film, I am sure, was an eye opener to many people about how influential Mexican cinema and their stars have been on U.S. cinema and the arts.