Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Sat Sep 27, 2008 6:30 am 
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'Bonnie and Clyde' meet 'Pierrot le Fou': the Mexican nueva Nouvelle Vague is still alive

Naranja's movies, judging by this one and his previous one, Drama/Mex, which I saw a the London Film Festival, are full of sympathy for rebellions kids in his native Mexico and have an omnipresent sense of danger and the unexpected. This one, Voy a explotar, part of the New York Film Festival slate for 2008, is a romantic but playful drama of teen angst, escape, games that turn dangerous. It's a buddy picture of young lovers who rarely make love, who're indifferent yet adore each other. It's a road picture about runaways who, one of them, the smooth, dark-skinned Roman (Juan Pablo de Santiago), being of the privileged classes (his father's a successful politician, married to a second wife), never really hit the road. They escape from view while remaining at home. At Roman's home, that is, hiding out on the roof, where his father doesn't think to look for him--and where they can look down with contempt on the bizarre and silly reactions of the adults.

Maru (Maria Deschamps, more formidable than pretty) is in the same school but her mother is only a nurse. Maru is a misfit at school. "I'm gonna explode" is a line from her diary, from which she reads in voiceovers. It's how she feels sometimes. When Roman presents a "performance" piece at the school talent show entitled "I'll Meet You in Hell," in which he stages himself in a mock hanging, Maru gets it, and they bond in school detention. She's a misfit and an intellectual; he's a rebel desperate for his busy father's attention. His idea is to steal a car and run away from this small town to Mexico City. He pretends to abduct her at gunpoint, and they disappear, but instead of running away they pitch a tent on the roof of his house--where the view of the city is beautiful and they rend their private air with loud music heard through shared headphones. The inside of the tent is shot with a red filter and it's a warm place, at once womb-like and dangerous, since it is a place for scary sexual exploration: they're both virgins, or so it would appear, and are ambivalent about taking the plunge. Inside this warm space they sleep together and cuddle up under the covers, one or the other alternately out of sync by wanting to sleep late.

They sneak down for a blender, a barbecue, food, tequila, wine. Roman wants to make love but they keep putting it off, and in his willingness to do this a certain tenderness and comradeship grow up between them. Still, they get bored with their isolation and each other. Their escape is lazy yet every moment remains full of the danger of their being caught, especially when they go below, not knowing when his father will return. And there are often a lot of people down there, including relatives of both families and the police.

Eventually when they've conned his father and stepmother and entourage into going away, they sneak down into the master bedroom and make love at last, the long-awaited experience heightened by the danger or risking discovery again.

Later Roman's stepmother (Rebecca Jones, a good actress in this minor role who looks a bit like Mercedes Ruehl) climbs up and sees them making love on the roof. She keeps the secret, even though the kids' disappearance is all over the news and there's a police search on, spurred obviously by the importance of Roman's rich, right-wing father Eugenio (Daniel Gimenez Cacho).

Roman is far more fatalistic. If they could push a button and eliminate the world, she wouldn't, but he would. He has developed a penchant for firearms and wears a pistol in a holster rakishly slung over his shoulder at all times, even when they go about in casual outfits, pajamas and shorts. They strike poses and try on costumes--and hats--like a real Bonnie and Clyde. When they finally hit the road, she wears one of Roman's mother's long white dresses.

When everyone's away they hear somebody yelling from below and, lowering a plastic bucket, receive an invitation to his deputado dad to attend a gala Quince Años celebration in Santa Clara. They steal a car and go. Roman turns out to be a terrible drunkard. Later, when they'e in a field the car is seized and they flee separately in terror; they've pledged to reassemble at a certain meeting place. Things finally have an air of desperation once they're separated. It was the two of them against the world, so when one is gone, there's nothing. This is the classic absolutism of all romantic love stories from Majnoun Layla to Werther but the irony is that their relationship always remains as much accidental as it is romantic.

Back on the roof one last time after a sojourn with the one adult he trusts, a guy he calls The Professor, Roman has grown paranoid and rigged up a trap with trip wires and a loaded weapon. This backfires, and the game ends tragically.

Shown at the festivals of Venice, Toronto, and New York, I'm Gonna Explode is original in its combination of edgy rebellion and spoiled upperclass pouting. The movie was co-produced by Pablo Cruz along with Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna, the pair of pals who gained international attention with Alfonso Cuarón's Y tu mamá también; more polished now with beautiful visuals and fine acting, Naranjo's work still has the kind of raw energy and freshness we saw in the early efforts of Cuarón, Iñárritu, and Del Toro--not to mention Carlos Reygadas, whom Naranjo declared in a NYFF press conference to be the greatest director working in Mexico today.

©Chris Knipp. Blog:

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