An acidic collage of controversial stories Geraldo Maranjo's Drama/Mex arrives to North America courtesy of IFC Films. Pic was part of last year's official selection at the Cannes Film Festival.
Executive produced by Spanish icon Diego Luna and rising star Gael Garcia Bernal Drama/Mex (2006) offers a great deal of what made Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu's Amores Perros a hit - fractured storytelling, gritty camerawork, an unpredictable plot. Even its pacing mirrors that of Inarritu's film, it is hasty and often suffocating with its adrenaline infused no-holds barred rushes.
Fernanda (Diana Garcia) has decided to move away from her free-spirited boyfriend
Chino (Emilio Valdés). She wants to be with Gonzalo (Juan Pablo Castaneda) even though his jealousy has proven to be an issue. But Chino wants Fernanda for himself. A suicidal office worker (Fernando Becerril) will cross paths with Fernanda and her lovers while quietly setting up the last day of his life. Unfortunately for him a teenage prostitute (Miriana Moro) will interfere with his plans.
Devoid of sugary sentimentality and fueled by strong depressive overtones Drama/Mex delivers a raw look at the backstreets of Acapulco. Pic's raw energy effectively rivals that of the earlier mentioned Amores Perros while the story progression is equally feverish providing the viewer with repeated roller-coaster emotions always ending with a strong dramatic punch (an early pseudo-rape scene being the most controversial one).
The main protagonists, as expected, are all troubled by a murky past which the audience is never given the opportunity to analyze. They deal with the present in a manner suggesting great failures: their personal lives are wrecked and impossible to rebuild. Therefore the nagging sense of personal agony pic introduces after the introductory twenty or so minutes is often difficult to endure.
Barring a few occasional scenes driven by edgy black humor pic intentionally maintains a doom and gloom feel which eventually leads to what I expected would be the "logical" finale: a sudden stop. Naranjo's stylish abandonment of the main protagonists and their unsolvable personal dilemmas has a strong and lasting effect. Furthermore, the lack of comfy political correctness, via half-hidden moralistic lessons or a feel-good summation, grants plenty of credibility which many are likely to cite as a good enough reason to see this film.
Tech credits are solid with Yibran Assaud's film editing deserving a major recognition for pic's convincing chaotic look.
How Does the DVD Look?
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and enhanced for widescreen TVs the print provided by IFC Films appears in good condition. The rough look supported by excessive grain and at times intentionally boosted colors appears in tact (I understand that even some of the notable scratches that pop up here and there are intentional). Contrast is difficult to judge given that I did not see this film in a theater. Yet, I could tell that the grittier night scenes are obviously less manipulated (the major indicator here is again color). The actual print is indeed progressive and without any serious issues to report.
How Does the DVD Sound?
Presented with a Spanish 5.1 track (and occasional bits of English) the audio appears to be in top-notch form. Dialog is very easy to follow while some of the supporting music is well mixed with it. I did not detect any disturbing audio dropouts or hissing(s). Finally, the disc offers optional English, Spanish, and English HOH subtitle tracks.
Unfortunately, there is nothing that could be found on this disc in terms of extras.
One of the strongest Mexican entries in quite some time Drama/Mex packs a solid dose of gritty reality with a potent script. Pic's emotionally battered protagonists are convincing with their life stories. The DVD herein reviewed courtesy of IFC Films does not offer any supplemental materials but the print provided is of very good quality.