Mexican films add panache to summer cinema

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Mexican films add panache to summer cinema

Local movie box-office charts have long been dominated by either homegrown or American movies. Films from elsewhere are still scarce, especially outside the capital.
Helping to break up the dichotomy, Seoul Art Cinema presents films from across the Pacific in the Sixth Mexican Film Festival running tomorrow through July 22.
Among Latin American countries, Mexico boasts the most prolific film scene, according to festival organizers. The festival this time focuses on one director, Arturo Ripstein, whose films targeting the absurdities of the establishment are drenched in black humor. From his prolific filmography, the festival presents nine films with Korean subtitles, among which three are also English-subtitled and another three French-subtitled.
A rarity in being both popularly and critically acclaimed, Mr. Ripstein, 60, made an impressive debut in 1965 with “Time to Die,” whose scriptwriters included the Nobel prize-winning author Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Being presented with only Korean subtitles, “Time to Die” is a Western drama with an unconventional twist, a story of murder and revenge.
Fortunately for expats, the three English-subtitled films, “Such Is Life,” “The Ruination of Men” and “Divine” are enough to feel the quintessential Ripstein.
One of the director’s most recent productions, “Such Is Life” (2000) tells the story of Julia, a 25-year-old housewife seemingly happily married with two kids. One day, however, her husband leaves home without a word and never returns, scarring her for life. Julia seeks to exact revenge on the world, a course full of despair that is tenaciously followed by Mr. Ripstein’s camera.
“The Ruination of Men,” another 2000 release, is a post-modernist black comedy whose title was inspired by a Mexican folk song lyric, “Men are ruined by women.” Mr. Ripstein intentionally made the film in black and white, giving it an unexpected plot twist at the end. “Divine” (1998), which was invited to the Cannes International Film Festival the year it was released, is a religious drama based on a true story.
The films subtitled in French are “Holy Office,” another religious drama; “The Place Without Limits,” a frightening satire about macho society and its anti-gay tradition, and “Life Sentence,” Mr. Ripstein’s own interpretation of film noir.
Along with Mr. Ripstein’s films, the festival also presents five shorts by several promising young directors. “Down to the Bone,” by Rene Castillo, is a clever animation about a man reaching the other world to participate in the festival of the dead. “Wedding Night,” by Carlos Cuaron, is a four-minute comedy about a couple’s first night after the wedding. “Benjamin,” by Julio Fons, is a slow-tempo drama describing an old man’s grief upon losing his best friend. Presented in one screening over 55 minutes, the five short films are subtitled in English. The Mexican film screenings move on to Daejeon from July 23 to 25.

by Chun Su-jin

Tickets for each screening are 6,000 won ($5). Advance ticket sales are available at or Seoul Art Cinema is best reached from Anguk station on subway line No. 3, exit 1. Call (02) 720-9782 or visit for details. For the Daejeon screening, call (042) 221-1895.
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