Roberto Gavaldón, Mexico
1960, Clasa Films Mundiales
91 minutes

LATAMROB rating: ****

BRUNO TRAVEN’S Macario managed to synthesise German folk tales such as Grimm’s Godfather Death and The Water of Life with the folklore of Mexico’s Day of the Dead. This fantastic moral tale with an underlying social critique was brought to the big screen by Roberto Gavaldón in 1959. Macario (Ignacio López Tarso) is an indigenous woodcutter who lives in the mountains near the city of Taxco with his hardworking wife and horde of young children. Throughout his life he has toiled and felt nothing but hunger, although he has never wanted anything for himself. But one Day of the Dead, when he is feeling poorer than ever, he stumbles upon a roasted turkey, which becomes his life’s obsession. After Macario loses the will to live unless he can have one turkey to himself, his desperate and loving wife (Pina Pellicer) steals and cooks one for him, urging him to scurry to the forest away from the kids in order to enjoy the feast. The Devil, God, and Death ask him to share a little and, being a poor, yet wise, man his choice of partner gains him a wonderful destiny in which he is bestowed with power over life and death and becomes the richest man in town, attracting the eyes of the Spanish Inquisition. Macario was one of the most celebrated movies of its time and the first Mexican film to be nominated for the 1961 Oscar Best Foreign Language Film. It was also nominated for the 1960 Cannes Film Festival Golden Palm for best director. Despite this, Mexican film critics at the time panned the director for creating an artificially nationalistic, backward and contrived film to satisfy foreign tastes and the festival crowd. Nowadays, the critics recognise that the camera work carried out by Gabriel Figueroa in this mono classic was sublime and certainly conveys an ambience of life beyond – a task made easier by the quality of the cast. Ignacio López Tarso is considered one of Mexico’s finest actors – having overcome his own thwarted dream cut short when he hurt his back seriously climbing an orange tree in California – and Pina Pellicer appeared in One-eyed Jacks along Marlon Brando. – GJ

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