Thursday, March 18, 2010

Voy a explotar: hazardous hormones

It starts, rather misleadingly, with Román’s interior voice, a diary entry-cum-psychic yawp addressed to a mass of “Hijos de puta.” It’s Román’s aberrant fantasy we then watch play out, the one where he enters a classroom and blows away both of the trembling religious instructors before turning the gun on himself. This fantasy is what got him kicked out of boarding school and sent into the arms of destiny. Then it’s Maru’s turn, it becomes her voice that we hear express similar inner turmoil. Like Román she’s an exhilaratingly alienated teenager, anxious to rebel without a cause, her face and body alternately resembling those of a young woman and a four-year-old boy. It’ll be Maru’s voice that we stick with for the remainder of
Voy a explotar (I’m Gonna Explode). She describes Román’s sudden appearance in her life as a sort of revelation, a phenomenon, this sleazebag politician’s son riddled with uncontainable angst. He does a presentation at the school talent show called ‘See You in Hell’ that falls miserably flat but manages to catch Maru’s attention nonetheless. “A perfect accomplice, a twin,” she calls him. Román is both real and a being conjured by Maru’s dreamy desperation. Maybe that’s why, despite young Juan Pablo de Santiago’s perfectly capable performance, Román leaves less of an impression, why Maru seems so much more the fully realized of the two central characters. In any case, she’s our heroine, and Voy a explotar marks an auspicious debut for Maria Deschamps, the young actress who surrenders completely to Maru’s fascinated abandon, and does so with a remarkable, individual humour.

The French New Wave is a half-century old but for Mexican writer/director Gerardo Naranjo the tropes and techniques are still buzzing with freshness and audacity, still useful tools.
Voy a explotar is an unabashed homage to the Jean-Luc Godard of the early to mid-1960s, Pierrot le fou (1965) especially, with its delirious romance juxtaposed with cool formalism, its breathless, lovers on the run narrative, its flurry of jump-cuts and playful dissonance of image, voice-over and music, some of which is the work of composer Georges Delerue, ripped directly from Godard’s own iconoclastic interjections in the aforementioned film. Naranjo’s third feature, the follow-up to Drama/Mex (06), may look backward for its modus operandi, but the material this approach gives birth to feels perfectly contemporary, an irreverent reflection of Columbine culture and other recent manifestations of adolescent nihilism. It’s imbued with what might be a uniquely Mexican cynicism and some terrifically black humour. It also departs radically from other similarly themed movies, like say, Badlands (73), and from Godard’s Pierrot le fou casting of Anna Karina and Jean-Peal Belmondo especially, by using actors who really look like little kids, youngsters not fully grown into their bodies, a fact which doesn’t fail to inject the proceedings with an unnerving sense of the real.

Set in Naranjo’s native home of Guanajuato,
Voy a explotar offers a portrait of the picturesque colonial city, with its houses that climb the surrounding hills, as seen from the central rooftops and subterranean tunnels that Román and Maru traverse in search of the feeling of escape as much escape’s actuality. They, and we, see Guanajuato from above and below, a sly visual strategy that mirrors the kids’ mischievous plan, to pretend that they’ve fled the city when they’re actually camping out on the roof of Román’s family home, hiding in plain sight, fumbling their way through sex or snatching booze and junk food while everyone else is asleep or out, while their parents, either lazily indifferent or hysterical and useless, go about their negligent search. (Román’s father is hilariously played by Mexican veteran Daniel Giménez Cacho, probably most familiar to Anglophone viewers as a disembodied voice—he was the anonymous narrator of Alfonso Cuaron’s Y tu mamá también (01).)

I saw
Voy a explotar at the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival and have since been patiently wondering when it might resurface. The film played the New York Film Festival that same year, and eventually returned to NYC screens last summer. It never received any theatrical release anywhere in Canada that I know of, but at least, unlike a number of other equally worthy recent Latin American films, it’s now been granted a DVD release from Paradox/E1 in a no-frills package but featuring a decent transfer. The film was co-produced by Canana, the Mexican company overseen by Y tu mamá también’s stars Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna. They recently re-teamed for Rudo y Cursi (08), which was kinda fun but not nearly as exciting a film as Voy a explotar. It did however get some limited Canadian distribution, presumably in the hopes that García Bernal and Luna’s allure could result in another art house hit. (It didn’t.) I don’t know that Voy a explotar could have generated the sort of box office that potential distributors require to justify such a gamble, but with any luck its appearance on DVD will help to keep viewers alert to the fact that, ten years after Amores Perros (00), Mexican cinema is still very much alive and kicking and ready to explode upon the international scene.

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