Saturday, November 24, 2018

Una familia de tantas / One Family Among Many (2016 restoration Cineteca Nacional México)

MX 1948. PC: Producciones Azteca. P: César Santos Galindo. D: Alejandro Galindo. SC: Alejandro Galindo. Cin: José Ortiz Ramos. AD: Gunther Gerszo. Makeup: Carmen Palomino. M: Raúl Lavista. S: Luis Fernández. ED: Carlos Savage.
    C: Fernando Soler (don Rodrigo Cataño), David Silva (Roberto del Hierro), Martha Roth (Maru), Carlos Riquelme (Ricardo), Eugenia Galindo (doña Gracia Cataño), Isabel del Puerto (Estela), Alma Delia Fuentes (Lupita), Enriqueta Reza (Guadalupe).
    Premiere: 11.3.1949.
    Restored in 2K in 2016 by Cineteca Nacional México at Laboratorio de Restauración Digital from a 35 mm acetate positive film, thanks to the support of Nuevo Cinema Latino
    Not released in Finland – 131 min
    Revolution and Adventure: Mexican Cinema in the Golden Age, curated by Daniela Michel and Chlöe Roddick, originally for Il Cinema Ritrovato (2017).
    2K DCP with English subtitles from Cineteca Nacional México.
    Screened at Cinema Orion, Helsinki 24 Nov 2018

An excellent humoristic family drama about the clash of tradition and modernity.

It is interesting to compare this with classic contemporary Japanese jidai-geki films, for instance those produced at the Shochiku studio. Mexicans are completely different than the Japanese, but the challenge of modernity is the same.

Una familia de tantas starts in a realistic vein by introducing its large family at its morning routines. The director Alejandro Galindo at once establishes a lively mise-en-scène.

Maru (Maria, played by Martha Roth) soon emerges as the protagonist of the young generation. She is about to turn 15 which means she will be a woman soon. Shoes are highlighted as the symbol of womanhood.

The harbinger of modernity is Roberto, a vacuum cleaner salesman. He is convincing in his sales routine. This could be an occasion for a satire of consumerism and commercialism, but Galindo switches to a different approach. Roberto's products (the vacuum cleaner and the refrigerator) are good and useful, especially for the women at home, helping them in major ways.

The irascible father, Don Rodrigo (Fernando Soler in a masterful performance) of course blows his top. "The insolence!" he exclaims learning that Maria had been alone at home when Roberto had entered. "An invention to take women out of their homes". The truly humoristic part starts here. Roberto keeps his cool, stays polite and reverential in a dignified way and uses psychology to sell the vacuum cleaner to Don Rodrigo. "It was the best way to get rid of the upstart", is the explanation of the father having bought the machine.

The account of Don Rodrigo's micromanagement of the family is humoristic, but we never forget that his is a reign of terror. The oldest daughter Estela's dates with her boyfriend are ridiculously controlled. The oldest son Hector lands in trouble with a baby out of wedlock.

Nevertheless, Maria's 15th anniversary party sequence is full of tenderness. She dances her first waltz with her father. The scene is full of delicious nuances in a film that keeps growing towards the finale.

Maria has to keep meeting Roberto secretly during her evening visits to the bakery. Roberto addresses Maria on the level of equality and true sharing. Meanwhile, Don Rodrigo hurries towards an arranged marriage between Maria and a cousin, the industrialist Ricardo.

In the funniest and most surprising twist of the film Roberto has a refrigerator introduced into the household, and when he delivers the sales talk he succeeds in selling the machine to both Don Rodrigo and Ricardo. He is a brilliant salesman, and an honest one, too, when he states that the machine "will pay for itself in no time". But when Roberto has left Maria starts to cry and confesses that she cannot marry Ricardo.

The voice of wisdom belongs to the maid Guadalupe who has supported the young generation all the way. Now she states to Maria: "The doors of heaven are never open wide". Maria goes to buy bread one last time. She and Roberto keep chiding each other on the street, and then they decide to act. "Vamos".

Maria defends Robert to the raging father. "It's me living in him as he is living in me". The wedding sequence is original and deeply moving. The biggest crisis is experienced by the mother. During the drama it becomes clear that Maria is now becoming a model for others. "The hopes of many girls are riding on you".

Alejandro Galindo directs the finale with a masterful sense of tempo and silence. The children of the yard are playing while the young couple leaves Maria's paternal home. The emotion is powerful but not in conventional melodramatic terms. There is a sense of a new age and a new life, and a sense that you must fight for your happiness.

This kind of story evolves almost completely within the interiors of the family home. The mobile camera of the cinematographer José Ortiz Ramos keeps it alive. Panoramic shots from the rooftop give us a sense of space and the big city.

The visual quality of the digital presentation was very good, but not always brilliant. As explained in the opening restoration credits, the sources have been preserved in highly variable conditions. An enjoyable result has emerged from the difficult restoration project.


Alejandro Galindo oli Julio Brachon rinnalla meksikolaisen elokuvan kulta-ajan tuotteliaimpia ohjaajia. Hänen filmografiansa kasvoi kattamaan lähes 80 pitkää elokuvaa, ja hän siirtyi sujuvasti genrestä toiseen: komediasta film noiriin, kauhuun ja draamaan.
    Presidentti Miguel Alemán Valdésin (1946–1952) valtakaudella maa teollistui nopeasti, Yhdysvaltain vaikutus kasvoi toisen maailmansodan jälkeen, ja maa alkoi ottaa välimatkaa vuosisadan alun perinteisiin porfiriaanisiin* arvoihin. Tätä taustaa vasten Una familia de tantas kertoo tarinan keskiluokkaisesta perheestä, jota hallitsee autoritaarinen ja konservatiivinen patriarkka.
    Perheen ydintä uhkaa kauppamatkustaja, pölynimurikauppias, joka avaa oven edistykselle – sekä kirjaimellisesti että vertauskuvallisesti.
    Loistavan osasuorituksen tarjoaa Fernando Soler, joka kuului meksikolaisen elokuvan historian tärkeimpiin näyttelijäperheisiin ja joka oli myös Luis Buñuelin suosikkeja elokuvissa El gran calavera (1949), Susana (1951) ja La hija del engaño (1951).
    Jos Galindo oli kuuluisa osuvista meksikolaisen urbaanin työväen- ja keskiluokan kuvauksistaan, Soler oli näyttelijä paikallaan, kun piti esittää autoritaarista vallitsevien moraalisten arvojen puolestapuhujaa myös elokuvissa Al son de la marimba (Juan Bustillo Oro, 1940), ¡Qué hombre tan simpático! (ohjaajana näyttelijä itse vuonna 1943), La oveja negra (Ismael Rodríguez, 1949) ja No desearás la mujer de tu hijo (Ismael Rodríguez, 1949).
    Galindon elokuvassa esiintyvä uusi sodanjälkeinen modernisuus merkitsi monelle meksikolaiselle jyrkkää katkosta perinteeseen. Jos porfiriaaniselle ajalle oli ollut ominaista vahva eurosentrisyys, uusi amerikkalainen modernisuus oli huomattavasti vulgaarimpaa, ja se raivasi tietä ennenkuulumattomalle taloudelliselle ja seksuaaliselle vapaudelle.
– Daniela Michel ja Chlöe Roddick (Il Cinema Ritrovato 2017: Revolution and Adventure: Mexican Cinema in the Golden Age) AA 24.11.2018

* Viittaa Porfirio Díaziin, joka oli Meksikon presidentti seitsemän virkakautta vuosina 1876–1911 ja jonka diktatuurihallintoa vastaan Meksikon vallankumous nousi.


Alejandro Galindo, along with Julio Bracho, was one of the most prolific directors of the Golden Age, with a filmography that encompassed nearly eighty features and that deftly traversed genres from comedy, to film noir, horror and drama.

In the context of rapid industrialization under the presidency of Miguel Alemán Valdés (1946-1952), the growing influence of the United States on Mexico after the Second World War and a concurrent pull away from the more traditional, Porfirian* values of the turn of the century, Una familia de tantas relates the story of a middle-class family ruled by a domineering and conservative Patriarch. The family nucleus is threatened by a traveling vacuum cleaner salesman, who – both literally and symbolically speaking – opens the door to progress.

The film features an outstanding performance from Fernando Soler, who was part of one of the most important acting families in Mexican cinema history, and was also a favourite of Luis Buñuel, starring in The Great Madcap in 1949, as well as Susana and Daughter of Deceit, both in 1951. If Galindo was famed for his on-the-nose portraits of the Mexican urban working- and middle-classes, Soler was the actor of choice to portray the authoritarian moral defender of values, also in films like Al son de la marimba (Juan Bustillo Oro, 1940), Qué hombre tan simpático! (directed by the actor himself in 1943), La oveja negra (Ismael Rodríguez, 1949) and No desearás la mujer de tu hijo (Ismael Rodríguez, 1949).

The new, post-war modernity that is represented in Galindo’s film was a sharp break in tradition for many Mexicans: if the Porfirian era had been defined by a strong Eurocentricism, the new, American modernity was much more vulgar, and paved the way for an economic and sexual freedom that was unprecedented in Mexico.

*Relating to Porfirio Díaz, the Mexican President who served seven terms between 1876 and 1911, and against whose dictatorial rule the Revolution was aimed.

Daniela Michel e Chlöe Roddick

No comments: