Roma ★★★★½

My latest essay, "Mi Familia," is now up online for Film Comment. It's a personal rumination on my family, my cinephilia, and my heritage. It starts with an image from Cuarón's ROMA, moving swiftly but purposefully through other lodestars of my life: Barbara Loden's WANDA, THE EXILES, the films of David O. Russell and Douglas Sirk. It's the kind of criticism that, for a while, I've wanted to write but didn't think I could. Now I'm so happy to be able to share this, the first of many similarly wide-range pieces I've written during my time in New York City (to be rolled out in the coming weeks).

"Among the thicket of memory-scenes that form Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma, one of the most devastating, for me, takes place inside the Cine Metropolitan in Mexico City. The film’s Mixtec lead, the maid Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio), has told her lover Fermín (Jorge Antonio Guerrero) that she’s pregnant with their child. After a long pause, Fermín excuses himself and slips out of the theater, leaving Cleo alone to watch the final reel of Gérard Oury’s La Grande Vadrouille (1966), an elephantine, sentiment-logged wartime comedy which was France’s biggest box-office hit for over forty years. (So much for French taste.) This unforgettable melancholic image—a pregnant Cleo finishing the film, alone and in the process of being abandoned, in a decadent ’40s movie palace, while Terry-Thomas floats over her distress with his gap-toothed RAF mugging schtick—does not reek of the irony or smugness you’d expect from such a jarring incongruity between screen and reality. It’s a moment that presents a truth, quiet and poker-faced: The moving image is not an aspirational model of what could be, but of what brutally is."

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