Alonso Ruizpalacios’s debut is a nouvelle vague inspired Mexican road movie
Alonso Ruizpalacios’s inventive, micro-budget debut feature Güeros transports the irreverent spirit of the French nouvelle vague to the streets of 1990s Mexico. This meandering road movie set in a time of student unrest and social upheaval recalls the Truffaut of Jules et Jim and the Godard of Bande à Part. The Paris protests of May 1968 are never far from our mind whilst the dreamy black-and-white cinematography of Damian Garcia evokes the sensibility of early Jim Jarmusch features like Stranger Than Paradise. There hasn’t been a film with hipper references all year.
The title refers to a slang term for light-skinned or fair-haired Mexicans. The story seems like the slightest of excuses to explore character, conflict and class struggle. Light-skinned teenager Tomás (Sebastián Aguirre) is dispatched to live with his older, dark-skinned student brother Fede (Tenoch Huerta) in Mexico City by an exasperated mother only too happy to surrender the responsibility for his care.
It is Tomás who persuades Fede and best friend Santos (Leonardo Ortizgris) to abandon their listless life, leave their dingy apartment and join him on a quest to find Epigmenio Cruz (Alfonso Charpener), a legendary folk singer who ‘once made Bob Dylan cry.’ The trip grows to include student protest leader Ana (Ilse Salas) who falls into the Anna Karina / Jeanne Moreau mould as a strong, independent woman who Fede clearly worships and adores.
Filled with dry, deadpan humour and tender moments of romantic longing, Güeros captures a sense of a chaotic moment in the life of the nation through the individual experiences of the central characters. It is rambling, overlong and playfully self-conscious (there are potshots at indigenous moviemaking and at the film’s own shortcomings) but the sincere performances, engaging music choices and confident direction all help confirm Ruizpalacios as a promising new voice in Mexican cinema.
Selected release from Fri 20 Nov.