The Invisible 60s
I’ve been trying to go through Mexican cinema more or less chronologically, so for this post I wanted to write about a film from the 60s. Tough luck. It seems that Mexican films from that decade are almost impossible to see. There are probably a few reasons for this….
First, the Mexican film industry was more or less falling apart. The movies produced throughout the 50s had become increasingly tired and routine. By the end of the decade three of the major studios had closed. Unions made it difficult for new filmmakers to enter the industry, so there was little innovation or experimentation. And of course, television was becoming more popular, which led to lower receipts at the box office. So while filmmakers in France, Italy, Japan and the US were breaking boundaries and trying new approaches, Mexican filmmakers were dealing with tremendous challenges.
This doesn’t mean nobody was doing good work. But it does mean that Mexican movies made during this period were mostly low budget affairs that got little or no distribution outside the country. While Godard, Oshima and Antonioni are known to almost anybody with a background in film, even film scholars are mostly unaware of directors like Alberto Isaac or Carlos Enrique Taboada.
As a result, these days Mexican films from the 60s seem to be pretty much invisible. No doubt you could dig up a number of cheap comedies and masked wrestler flicks. But if you look for movies made by people who actually cared about what they were doing, they’re impossible to find. My search for DVD releases of films that Isaac and Taboada made in the 60s turned up absolutely nothing. I did find people writing about their work, some of them enthusiastic about what they’d seen. But the movies are not available. I was dying to see a title called En el balcon vacio, directed by Jomi Garcia Ascot in 1961. The comments I read about the movie really intrigued me. But forget it. It ain’t out there.
The thing that scares me most is the possibility that prints of these films are either in really bad shape or don’t even exist. In spite of the fact that film preservation has a fairly high profile in the US and Europe, there are numerous titles that are lost forever. Because Mexican cinema doesn’t attract as much interest as other countries, I’m afraid that most of these films aren’t even on anybody’s radar.
[Update: I was able to find a few titles by Carlos Enrique Taboada on eBay. I purchased Hasta el viento tiene miedo, and enjoyed watching it. I hesitate to even call it a horror film, because it’s pretty tame by current standards for the genre. But it’s an interesting movie, focussing on a group of young woman at a school where the headmistress is very stern….]