Picturehouse Marketing Executive John-Paul Pierrot takes a look at today’s Discover Tuesdays film Güeros.
Director: Alonso Ruiz Palacios
Starring: Sebastián Aguirre, Tenoch Huerta, Ilse Salas. Mexico 2014. 108 mins. Spanish with English subtitles.
You’d be forgiven for not catching this film upon its release in October last year after it opened at a measly six cinemas nationwide. Now Güeros happily marches back into cinemas thanks to Discover Tuesdays as it plays at Picturehouses across the land. After all, this plucky indie comedy deserves to be viewed on a silver screen for its beautiful black-and-white cinematography and achingly cool lo-fi aesthetic.
Writer-director Alonso Ruiz Palacios establishes himself as a new enfant terrible of Latin American cinema with his exuberant road movie, which earned him the Best First Feature gong at Berlinale two years ago.
The film starts with an explosive opening sequence. Like an infantile version of De Niro’s Johnny Boy setting a postbox ablaze in Mean Streets, adolescent prankster Tomás drops a water bomb from a rooftop onto an unsuspecting mother and child, and is duly banished to live with his student brother in the city. Fede, a slacker who suffers from hallucinatory panic attacks, lives an aimless existence with his flatmate amid an ongoing student rebellion at the National Autonomous University Of Mexico. Upon hearing news that their childhood idol Epigmenio Cruz – a rock musician who once moved Bob Dylan to tears – is in hospital, the brothers begin a muddled journey to find him in order to pay their last respects.
Laced with deadpan comedy, Güeros is not your usual coming-of-age story. Palacios’s quirky directing style pays homage to the French new wave with self-reflexive flashes in which our protagonists uproariously disapprove of Mexican art films that are shot in black-and-white. In this case they are very wrong: Güeros is striking to look at, not only for its beautiful monochrome images of Mexico City, but also for Palacios’s expert attention to camera movement. Bird’s-eye shots of ashtrays on coffee-stained tables recall Jim Jarmusch, while the wry slacker vibe brings early Linklater to mind, with framing by way of Noah Baumbauch.
But it’s not simply a mishmash of arty styles; there is substance to the brothers’ hapless voyage, in which they stumble towards self-discovery. Palacios peppers their trip with little subtleties: at the university they loaf in front of a wall that reads, “to be young and not a revolutionary is a contradiction.” Tomás and Fede are en route to finding purpose; they just don’t know it yet.