LGM Film Club, Part 358: Que Viva MexicoComments
Watched another long-time favorite of mine again recently. That is Sergei Eisenstein’s unfinished masterpiece Que Viva Mexico, originally from 1932 but not really released internationally until 1979. The idea came out of Eisenstein and Upton Sinclair wanting to create a film about the Mexican Revolution. The first three parts are mostly done and that’s the film–the pre-Columbian scene represented by simple but beautiful Mayans, the colonial scene around bullfighting and Mexico’s relationship with violence, and the Porfirian scene of violence between a land owner and his pulque workers after a friend of the landlord rapes the soon to be wife of a worker. The fourth and final part was supposed to be a focus on Mexico building a revolutionary state through its women, with a focus on women soldiers. This did not get filmed. They ran out of money. Eisenstein did not work fast and he was basically a modern artist, not a Hollywood film maker. So the film was never finished.
But my God, what a beautifully shot piece of art. Yeah, sure it relies on stereotypes of Mexico, but these stereotypes were also being pushed by the cultural elites who hung out with Eisenstein down there, including Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo. So it’s hard to blame him for essentializing or romanticizing the indigenous population when Rivera and Kahlo were doing the same thing. I mean, Frida is pretty much the ultimate in white women playing Indian, though she was hardly the only one in Mexico or the U.S. at this time, or later. So you have to work through that a bit. But the shots, the anger over exploitation, the way it brings a revolutionary perspective to Mexico, just brilliant. Even if it is only 3/4 of a movie.