nedjelja, 19. siječnja 2014.

Rafael Corkidi - Pafnucio Santo (1977)

Kakvi bi filmovi mogli nastati kada kamerman Alejandra Jodorowskog počne režirati?

With his unfinished Marxist Mexican celluloid odyssey ¡Qué viva México! (1932), homo Bolshevik auteur Sergei M. Eisenstein (Battleship Potemkin, Alexander Nevsky), despite failing to fully realize his artistic vision, essentially planted the seeds for all avant-garde and largely far-left Mexican (and sometimes Spanish) films to come, especially in regard to surrealist/acid westerns like Alejandro Jodorowsky's El Topo (1970) aka The Mole and Fernando Arrabal’s Long Live Death (1971) aka Viva la muerte. Undoubtedly, if any of these follows the most closely thematically to ¡Qué viva México! in terms of its anti-colonial sentiment and call-to-commie-arms sociopolitical spirit, it is surrealist quasi-western Pafnucio Santo (1977) directed by Rafael Corkidi (Angels and Cherubs, Desires aka Deseos). Best remembered today as the cleverly calculating cinematographer behind the stunning camera work in Jodorowsky's Fando y Lis (1968), El Topo, and The Holy Mountain (1973), as well The Mansion of Madness (1973) directed by Juan López Moctezuma and Anticlimax (1973) directed by Mexican Renaissance man Gelsen Gas, Rafael Corkidi and his films, which are virtually impossible to find by any legal and official means, have undoubtedly been dropped in the garbage heap of surrealist cinema history, which is indubitably a minor cinematic tragedy of sorts, if not a surprising one considering the somewhat impenetrable, compulsively artsy fartsy, and overwhelmingly non-linear nature of these works. Rather absurdly chosen as the Mexican entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 50th Academy Awards but ultimately not being accepted as a nominee, Pafnucio Santo—a terribly pretentious peasant pseudo-Biblical tale—is a sometimes ominous and always odd operatic hodgepodge of nauseating nudity (including unclad old men and little boys, including the director's son) and demonic erotic dances, unadulterated anti-Americanism, minor Nunsploitation, sardonic anti-Catholicism, mystifying Mexican folk hero worship, Makavejev-esque communist criticism from the left, and quasi-high-camp of the Hispanic sort. Featuring a number of characters, who are sometimes in drag and played by the same actors, lip-synching to popular opera (sometimes in German!), Pafnucio Santo is undoubtedly a work that owes much credit to arthouse camp/kitsch auteur filmmakers of German New Cinema, especially Werner Schroeter (Eika Katappa, Der Bomberpilot), Hans-Jürgen Syberberg (Ludwig: Requiem for a Virgin King, Hitler: A Film from Germany), and Ulrike Ottinger (Freak Orlando, Johanna D'Arc of Mongolia), thereupon making it a work that stands far enough apart from the films of Jodorowsky and Arrabal as a curious celluloid cultural mongrel of sorts despite its somewhat militant Mexican power message. Centering around a sort of preteen Mexican Marxist messiah/revolutionary, Pafnucio Santo follows the (un)holy ‘Hispanic’ hero through history as he plays stupid American football in Aztec ruins, talks to his spiritual mother Frida Kahlo, and discovers that Patty Hearst is a big bitch and nihilistic misanthrope who is not a true red Marxist revolutionary. 

Told in operatic surrealist segments (journey, visitations, vespers, revolution, etc.) that vary in quality but are virtually always visually entrancing, Pafnucio Santo begins with the introduction of a dark emissary (Juan Barrón), who resembles a cross between Che Guevara and Leon Trotsky, has flames flashing from his face, and sports a militant uniform that looks like a cross between that of a fascist blackshirt and those worn by the killing squads that belonged to the Soviet Cheka. Upon running into Adam and Eve, the dark figure criticizes them for covering their genitals, thereupon criticizing the anti-life/anti-sex dogma of the Catholic Church that has spiritually castrated horny Mexican peasants. When seeing Jesus Christ die on the cross in the desert, the dark revolutionary pays him no mind, but he sneers with vile hatred when seeing a deadly crew of Klu Klux Klanners carrying a large burning cross, shotguns, ropes, and chains. The dark emissary also watches in disgust as a group of Jewish women and children are led through a gate with the infamous Auschwitz quote “Arbeit macht frei” (“work makes (you) free”), which was undoubtedly a German joke against the Jews and communists that director Rafael Corkidi certainly does not find funny as a true believer of the Gospel According to St. Marx. The black-caped emissary is here to make sure that a young football-tossing boy named Pafnucio Santo (the director’s son Pablo Corkidi) aka Holy Pafnucio is able to find a Marxist anti-Mother-Mary-like woman to give birth to a new Red Messiah of the Mestizo revolution. When preteen prophet Pafnucio meets with degenerate communist artist Frida Kahlo, she sings to the little lad, “The Party ordered you to look for the mother…who has the people’s struggle in her blood…because the red Messiah is about to be born. He will be, like Lenin, a great leader, a bold fight. A titan of the future!,” and the boy bolshevik goes on his merry way to find the potential mother for Jesus Marx.  Pafnucio also encounters Spanish Conquistador Hernán Cortés, the man who crushed the Aztec empire and helped form the mongrelized multicultural nightmare that Mexico is today, singing in a pigsty in an allegorical scene that demonstrates that the director thinks the conquistador was a pig who turned the Aztec lands into a pile of pig shit. When Pafnucio runs into a lady named ‘Patty Kane’ (a reference to Patty Hearst and Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane, the film that defiled the heiress’ grandfather William Randolph Hearst's legacy), he finds her to be a ‘red fascist’ (as his comrades goosestep) and nihilistic misanthrope as demonstrated by her singing of the following lines, “I hate people, I love war! Everything makes me sick, in this world!,” thereupon making her an excellent candidate for being the Mother of Mexican Marxism.  Pafnucio also runs into hostility from a stereotypically Mexican folk dancer, who states hatefully after the boy compliments her Mexican hat dance skills, “The little dance that you like so much, and I’ve been dancing all my life, is a plague! It’s what they call “nationalism”, “patriotism”…and I used it to get fucked! The Jarabe Tapatío is for everyone and everything, yes sir!,” which rather upsets the wee lad.  Little Pafnucio also has a marvelously melodramatic time viewing a Teutonic opera performance of William Shakespeare’s classic tragedy Romeo and Juliet, but only when meeting Emiliano Zapata in drag (played by Gina Morett, who plays at least two more characters in the film), who looks quite fine whilst wearing nothing more than a a vest of shotgun shells, does he seem to discover his Marxist Mother Mary and is able to shed his American football uniform forever. 

A work that, while retaining the original lyrics of classic opera compositions, features totally different subtitles with stupidly stereotypical revolutionary lines like “red star of gleaming red” and “Mexicans, heed the cry of war! Awaken!,” Pafnucio Santo is essentially an aberrant and absurdist agitprop flick that performs a sort of reverse-colonialism, aesthetically raping and pillaging classical European culture. Considering that the largely left-wing Mexican-Americans of California elected Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger governor of California simply because he is the Terminator, it is highly doubtful that such an art-addled work as Pafnucio Santo would have entertained them, let alone inspired the everyday Jose Schmose Mexican proletarian to take revolutionary political action. Featuring American football players playing an aggressive game in ancient Mexican monuments set to musical compositions by Richard Wagner and a young revolutionary who likes to dress like a cliché brainwashed American slob with a football helmet and Mickey Mouse t-shirt, Pafnucio Santo basically takes the stance that not only did the Spanish destroy the ancient Aztec gods and indigenous culture, but that cultural colonialism still lives on today in Mexico via Americanization/globalization. Despite its superficial aesthetic and thematic similarities with the films of Jodorowsky, Pafnucio Santo is ultimately a different breed as a Heimat film for Hispanics who hate the word ‘Hispanic’ and dream of the return of the Mesoamerican deity of war Huitzilopochtli and the destruction of Amero-gringo hegemony. 

Undoubtedly a work that derives its greatest strengths from its iconoclastic imagery and propensity for making KKK lynch mobs and Hebrew tots being led to the gas chamber seem like an exceedingly ethereal nightmare of the abhorrently aesthetically pleasing sort, Pafnucio Santo is best seen today as a failed yet oftentimes enthralling piece of novelty celluloid concept (anti)art deserving of minor cult status. More militantly idealistic than the celluloid magic tricks and jestering of Jodorowsky, Pafnucio Santo is also a work of Third World propaganda cinema that slightly rises above the level of simple commie clichés, even if the work is ridden with such vomit-inducing Trotskyites banalities. The closest thing to a Mexican Hans-Jürgen Syberberg, Rafael Corkidi proved with Pafnucio Santo one can still hate a people/culture (i.e. Europeans), but respect them at the same time as demonstrated by the director's use of musical compositions by Anton Dvorak, Edvard Grieg, Antonio Vivaldi, Richard Wagner and Giaccomo Puccini, as well as his curious nods to Shakespeare and Orson Welles and undeniable influence from European arthouse cinema of the late-1970s. A film that will certainly be of interest to those oh-so few ‘Brown Power’ cinephiles and the white nationalist cinephiles that hate them and would like to study the psyche of the enemy, Pafnucio Santo is political propaganda at its most patently perverse as a sort of bootlegged made-in-Mexico Mestizo brother film to Makavejev's Sweet Movie (1974).  Described in a 1977 New York Times review as being, “a bit like a homemade backyard shrine, admirable for what it says about the builder's capacity for compassion, regrettable in its confusion of prettiness for high art,” Pafnucio Santo is nothing short of amazing proof that even gringo-hating Mexicans can be pompous art fags who can have an exaggerated sense of prowess as cultural critiques.  Of course, if a race war occurs in North America and Mexicans and other Amerindians either win or establish their own ethno-nationalist racial state, I hope at least that Pafnucio Santo and director Rafael Corkidi's other films are rediscovered and acknowledged as true Mestizo art, but I seriously doubt it as the film lacks a certain machismo spirit. After all, I doubt many masculine Mexicans would of approve of their hero Emiliano Zapata depicted with tits and no cock, but I would say I respect Corkidi for inventing a sort of Schroeter-esque form of Cholo high-camp. -Soiled Sinema

Ángeles y querubines (1972)

Auandar Anapu (1975) 

Deseos (1977)

Here (for once) is a commentary about a director whose work doesn’t particularly excite me: Mexico’s Rafael Corkidi.
     Corkidi, of course, is best known as a cinematographer, and I’ll be the first to admit his prodigious talent for lighting and composition borders on genius. It’s appropriate, then, that Corkidi remains best known for four films he photographed but didn’t direct. Regarding the features he did helm, the best I can say about them is that all are extremely well visualized.
     Corkidi’s photography was the main asset of the experimental ANTICLIMAX (1969), the first and only feature by the famed poet/artist Gelson Gas. While ANTICLIMAX’S overall sensibility belongs to Gas, it was Corkidi who provided the impressively textured black-and-white imagery (women’s bare legs crossing and uncrossing aboard a bus, the protagonist going nuts in a supermarket, etc) that’s so vital to the film’s kaleidoscopic depiction of 1960s-era Mexico.
     The same is true of Alexandro Jodorowsky’s EL TOPO and THE HOLY MOUNTAIN, and Juan Lopez Moctezuma’s MANSION OF MADNESS, all of which benefited immeasurably from Corkidi’s visuals. The desert-set EL TOPO in particular bears Corkidi’s fingerprints in its impeccably visualized surreal set pieces that directly foreshadow his self-directed features. Corkidi’s work on THE HOLY MOUNTAIN, alas, was apparently marred by friction with Jodorowsky, who claims that Corkidi “was a nice person when we made EL TOPO…then when we made THE HOLY MOUNTAIN he was very difficult to control,” and alleges Corkidi even tried to “sabotage” the film. As for THE MANSION OF MADNESS, Corkidi’s bold cinematography was integral to that film’s overpowering aura of surreal insanity.
     Of Corkidi’s self-directed features, Jodorowsky has claimed they were all directly inspired by EL TOPO, and dismissed them as “boring.” I’m not entirely sure I agree with the first statement, as Corkidi clearly had a style and point of view that were very much his own (although at least one of his films does owe a sizeable debt to Jodorowsky), yet on the second Jodorowsky is entirely correct, as boring is one thing the following films indisputably are.
     1972’s ANGELS AND CHERUBS (ANGELES Y QUERUBINES) was the first and most famous feature directed by Rafael Corkidi. It begins with a hallucinatory take on Adam and Eve featuring two naked children frolicking in a beachfront Eden. From there the action switches to the interior of a dark castle where a young man falls in love with an alluring gal who comes from a staunchly middle class family living nearby, which leads to disillusionment, death and vampirism(!).
     Quite simply, the film is a bore. Virtually every scene is allowed to drag on far longer than is necessary, regardless of how uneventful those scenes may be (watching a servant woman endlessly circle a dinner table doling out soup is about as interesting as it sounds), and there’s little in the way of a cogent narrative to hold it all together. The film is crammed with striking surreal touches (telepathic puppets, an elaborate religious procession in the middle of a parched desert), but they feel gratuitous. Yet the cinematography, accomplished by Corkidi himself, is stunning.
     ANGELS AND CHERUBS was followed by 1974’s ONE WHO CAME FROM HEAVEN (AUANDAR ANAPU), a religious allegory about a saintly man wandering through a desert landscape, breaking up fights, fucking women and getting in trouble with the authorities. The proceedings are notable for the fact that the characters all have a tendency to break into music numbers in which they lip-synch to old Spanish tunes.
     Corkidi evidently had EL TOPO in mind, even though the film was allegedly based on a Mexican folk tale. Also, the surrealism usually so integral to Corkidi’s style has been toned down here, leaving us with an impressively photographed but quite tedious effort.
     1977’s PAFNUCIO SANTO features a young boy in a football jersey wandering through a(nother) surreal desert landscape, where he encounters several famous individuals, among them Frieda Kahlo, Hernando Cortez, Patty Hearst and Emilio Zapata (in the guise of an attractive woman), all of whom (as in the previous film) frequently lip synch to famous operas. Once again the visuals are damned impressive, but the film is otherwise a half-baked, uneventful snooze.
     Finally we have 1978’s DESEOS, which treads the same ground as the previous three entries. As in ANGELS AND CHERUBS the setting is a desert manor that houses a singularly freaky band of eccentrics; as in PAFNUCIO SANTO all the characters periodically break into song, lip syncing to old Mexican tunes regardless of gender; as in ONE WHO CAME FROM HEAVEN there’s a heavy religious subtext, with a constantly masturbating nun and a plethora of crucifixion imagery. Corkidi’s visuals, as always, are eye-popping, consisting of a succession of impeccably lit and composed wide shots, but in all other aspects the film, in what had become an all-too-common aspect of Corkidi’s work, is a pretentious dirge.

     Most of the remainder of Corkidi’s filmography consists of TV documentaries and a handful of little-seen features (including 1984’s long-banned FIGURAS DE LA PASION, 1992’s RULFO AETERNUM and 2010’s EL MAESTRO PRODIGIOSO). Currently entering his ninth decade and evidently retired, Corkidi can be viewed as one the greatest cinematographers Mexico has produced. His skills as a director, alas, aren’t in the same league!

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