And Your Mother Too (Y tu mamá también, Mexico, 2001)

Coming of age

Coming of age

Director: Alfonso Cuaron
Producers: Jorge Vergara and Alfonso Cuaron
Screenplay: Carlos Cuaron and Alfonso Cuaron
Director of Photography: Emmanuel Lubezki
Editors: Alfonso Cuaron and Alex Rodriquez
Production Designer: Miguel Angel Alvarez
Cast: Maribel Verdu, Gael Garcia Bernal, Diego Luna

While the Mexican film establishment disapproved of Y tu mama tambien, they nominated Violet Perfumes (Nadie te oye: Perfume de violetas, 2001) for the foreign language Oscar, the masses loved it and it was, at the time, the biggest box office hit ever.

Writing in Variety, Mexican film scholar Leonardo Garcia Tsao dismisses the film as a “south-of-the-border Beavis & Butthead, its protagonists “oversexed and underdeveloped.” (Smith, 2002, p. 16b)

Tsao’s description of the protagonists is entirely correct and the comparison with the MTV spin-off draws attention to the reason for the Establishment’s distaste: that the film is too culturally North American.

Generically it does draw upon Hollywood’s teen pics and road movies however there the resemblance ends. Stylistically the film is characterised by long, handheld shots. On their first night on the road they stop at an inn where the ‘lads’ learn about Ana’s background. The scene lasts 165 seconds and is shot in one take. Whilst long takes often have a documentary feel, giving the impression nothing of the pro filmic (that is, what is being filmed) event has been cut out, here the camera’s constant movement (either following the action or unsteady handheld) draws attention to itself in a way that documentaries normally wouldn’t do. However at the scene’s end the camera follows a woman into the kitchen where a family work (and play). The woman is not an important character and so this movement is unmotivated by the narrative and it allows us to see what’s normally hidden from a film’s view, that is ‘ordinary people’.

This isn’t the film’s only political element. An omniscient narrator explains that a traffic jam, which the boys blame upon protestors, was caused by the death of a labourer who risked crossing the road in order earn more money by arriving at work earlier. Tenoch’s (Luna) sister is seen protesting against the government, contrasting with her brother’s vacuity as his only concern is to ‘get laid’.

In an interview, when the director was questioned about his sympathy for the underclass, Cuaron replied:

There are many different Mexicos that exist at the same time and sometimes in the same space, though they don’t really co-exist. The barriers between the classes are a big problem, though everyone tries to deny it. (Smith, 2002, p. 19b)

Cuaron cites Godard as an influence, the omniscient narrator of Band a part (1964) and Masculin feminine (1968) and the ‘love triangle’ is reminiscent of Jules et Jim, directed by Francois Truffaut in 1962. Presumably these ‘high culture’ influences wouldn’t have upset the establishment.

Paul Julian Smith (2002) ‘Heaven’s mouth’ Sight and Sound vol.12, issue 4
Interview with Carlos Cuaron and Alfonso Cuaron at www.wga.org/WrittenBy/0303/mama.html
Review, by Charles Taylor, in Salon at www.salon.com/ent/movies/review/2002/03/15/y_tu_mama/
(both accessed June 2006)

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2 Responses

  1. […] unknown wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptWhile the Mexican film establishment disapproved of Y tu mama tambien, they nominated Violet Perfumes (Nadie te oye: Perfume de violetas, 2001) for the foreign language Oscar, the masses loved it and it was, at the time, the biggest box … […]

  2. […] right in this instance. I’m an admirer of director (and co-scriptwriter) Alfonso Cuaron: his Y tu mama tambien and Children of Men  are amongst my favourite films of this century. His trademark long takes are […]

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