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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Su Alteza Serenisima
Su Alteza Serenisima
Ventura // Unrated // September 28, 2004
List Price: $19.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Matthew Millheiser | posted November 14, 2004 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie

My knowledge of Mexican history is about as complete as my knowledge of the prevailing principles of Persian plumbing. In fact, I suppose a solid working knowledge of the life of Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna would be extremely beneficial in gauging one's enjoyment out of Su Alteza Serenísima (His Most Serene Highness), the 2000 film from director Felipe Cazale. The movie takes place during the final three days of Santa Anna's life, attempting to provide context to a life filled with bravado, glory, and defeat.

Elected president of newly independent Mexico in 1833 after emerging as a central figure in the battle for Mexican independence, the ambitious military officer soon found dictatorship more to his liking. The former liberal declared himself a Centralist, and began a campaign of suspending constitutional rights and crushing any uprisings against him. Americans know him best as the "villain" in the legendary standoff at the Alamo Mission. Although he successfully defeated his enemy there, he was later captured by Sam Houston and eventually lost Texas. Retired, Santa Anna returned to active service in a battle against a French invasion, where he lost a leg for his efforts. His sale of the Mesilla Valley to the United States was not a popular move, and he was exiled by outraged liberals in 1855. After bouncing between various Caribbean islands, he was allowed to return to Mexico in 1874, and died in Mexico City in 1876.

So why the history lesson? It provides a bit of historical context to Su Alteza Serenísima, although it doesn't really help all too much. Not because the film is an obtuse, context-specific piece, but because it is an unmitigated bore. The performances are especially solid, but there is a sluggish, negating feel to the picture. While the attempt to humanize Santa Anna as a human being and not present him as a dime-store novel villain is refreshing, I never felt that I understood the man, his motivations, or those of the people around him. The film goes on for too long and seems to meander, squandering any opportunity to engage the viewer in what could have been a more compelling story.

The DVD

Video:

Su Alteza Serenisima is presented in a fullframe aspect ratio of 1.33:1. The transfer seems a tad dark at times, but generally presents a rich picture. Colors are accurate and lush. Image detail is only slightly lacking at times, but otherwise well handled. Some line noise and shimmering are infrequent but sometimes apparent, while the transfer is free of blocking and compression noise. Minor but non-distracting print wear is detectable, but this is more there than here. Overall, a solid and enjoyable transfer.

Audio:

The audio is presented in a standard monaural Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. There isn't much of an orchestral score to this film, employing long periods of dialog over silent backgrounds. As such, the center channel dialog sounds remarkably clear and bright. While the soundstage isn't overtly engaging, dynamic, or expansive, it does a remarkable job in presenting the film in a straightforward, low-key manner.

Extras:

There are text biographies for Felipe Cazals, Alejandro Parodi, Ana Bethea Espin, and Pedro Armendarez Jr., as well as trailers for other films in the Latin Cinema Collection, including Cilantro y Perejil, Terror and Black Lace, The Magic Hour, and Poison for the Fairies .

Final Thoughts

I didn't particularly care for Su Alteza Serenísima, but the DVD is fairly presentable. While there are no substantial extras of note, the presentation of the source material is quite acceptable. While fans of the film will probably get much value out of the disc, I didn't discern anything too compelling or memorable about the film. At best this is a rental for the curious, although as always your mileage may vary. Better to err on the side of caution and skip it entirely.

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