Alfonso Cuarón, Mexican writer/director (“Gravity,” “Children of Men”) gives us a contemporary neoclassic film, “Roma,” shot gorgeously in black-and-white 65mm film. Every frame amplifies the environment of the times back in 1968, when student riots were spilling out in Mexico as well as in France and Czechoslovakia, when solidarity among workers of the world was challenging elites and universities in every country.
Cuarón’s set is filled with vibrant details in every frame that grip the viewer’s eye in such a way as to tour our innermost emotions sympathetically, challenging us to make up our own minds about what is in front of us, a neoclassic achievement that is, at the same time, deeply personal as seen from the perspective of one of Mexico’s indigenous people, Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio), a housekeeper working for a wealthy family.
Cuarón is one of the “three amigos,” including Guillermo Del Toro (“Pan’s Labyrinth”) and Alejandro González Iñárritu (“Birdman”), who all grew up together making films in Mexico. Over the years they have each garnered Oscars for best director. There is a fourth “amigo” in their group, Mexican cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, who has had a profound effect on his three comrades. Although he was not the cinematographer on “Roma,” Cuarón had originally mapped out his entire film with a cast of thousands, planning on Lubezki for his DP, but a scheduling conflict came up and Cuarón had to shoot his own film, taking home the Oscar for best cinematographer for his stand-in job. Perhaps Cuarón’s secret is that with his amigos he learned to master all the skills needed for making astonishing films, and got an early start at it when he was 8 years old.
“Roma” gives rebirth to the neoclassic film genre, not only because it’s shot in black and white and has a cast of non-actors acting out their lives in the crowded streets of Mexico City, it is neoclassic in the sense that it presents itself to the audience in the most honest way, inviting the audience to see themselves through the eyes of a servant, whose daily tasks are never-ending, preparing meals, taking care of four children while the parents struggle to maintain control of their marriage. A scene that is repeated is the struggle to get a big American car into a narrow carport occupied by a large guard dog that litters the stone tiles with gigantic mounds of poop, which, of course, become yet another cleanup chore for Cleo. “What we tried to do,” states Cuarón, “is balance between character and a social context … we’re talking about personal scars … The social events that were portrayed are one of the most important and deep scars in the Mexican psyche.”
This film is timely, allowing the viewer to take a peak through its own sympathetic eye, to make up its own mind about who the people of Mexico really are behind the barriers of modern-day consciousness.
Show times: Friday, March 1 – 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, March 2 – 2:15 p.m.; Sunday, March 3 – 4:30 p.m.; Monday, March 4 – 4:15 p.m.; Tuesday, March 5 – 4:15 p.m.; Wednesday, March 6 – 7:30 p.m.; Thursday, March 7 – 4:15 p.m.