Tuesday, 14 February 2012

vaho (w&d alejandro gerber bicecci)

Vaho follows in the traditions of Mexican cinema narrative, threading together the stories of three young men, whose childhood friendship was abruptly cut short when one of them was inadvertently responsible for the lynching of the school caretaker, killed when the neighbourhood wrongly believed him to have molested Abigail, the young school beauty. In reality Abigail, trapped in the school, looking for her lost backpack, was in fine fettle, but fear stalked the community and tragedy ensued.

This whole sequence is told in flashback, with the opening forty five minutes of the film describing the humdrum, slightly desperate lives of the three former friends. The flashback sequence then places into perspective everything we have seen up to then, revealing the reasons for their disassociation from society. Perhaps the most intriguing strand is that of the young plumber's son, whose father was instrumental in the killing and has later turned to drink. His son's way of dealing with all this is to immerse himself in a group which celebrates the old Aztec traditions. He dons the feathers and the footshakers to dance at the markets, picking up a few pennies. The presence and lack of respect for the ancient culture seems emblematic of the holes in Mexican society that the movie shows up.

These holes have in large part been filled by Christianity. The movie's strongest sequence takes place during the Calvary festivities of the town, when men drag huge crosses to a new Golgotha, with Roman centurions charging by on horseback. There's an energy and daring to these scenes which feel like cinema verite. Overall the film struggles to contain the various strands it introduces. The bold narrative device of the flashback helps to anchor it, but at times gives it the feel of two separate movies squeezed into one.

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