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El río y la muerte (Death and the River)

Posted by martinteller on July 7, 2013

Gerardo Anguiano (Joaquin Cordero) is a doctor, living in an iron lung.  Romulo Menchaca (Jaime Fernandez) is waiting for him to get out… so he can kill him.  As Gerardo’s health improves, he explains the situation to his nurse, a blood feud over a cow that has taken the lives of every other male in the Anguiano and Menchaca families.  Gerardo wants no part of this silly war.  The trip over the river is either to the ceremony or to go into hiding.  He hopes to avoid making it for either reason.  But everyone in the town — including his own mother (Columba Dominguez) — thinks him a coward.

I have now seen every film directed by Luis Buñuel.  While it would have been nice to end on a better one, it’s not as bad as its reputation suggests.  The performances are all solid and the cinematography is never less than competent.  Buñuel’s sensibilities actually fare quite well in the western idiom, tearing down outdated macho standards and small-minded hypocrisy.

There aren’t many of the director’s signature touches… the violence is presented without glamour, there’s a priest who carries a pistol, and it’s not often you see a man in an iron lung get slapped, but otherwise this is pretty straightforward stuff without any surreal diversions or Buñuel’s usual kinkiness.  The structure is a little off-kilter, starting with a flashback to a time that has nothing to do with either the contemporary period or the lengthy flashback to Gerardo’s parents that takes up the bulk of the running time.

The themes are hammered all too bluntly and the ending is so pat that one wishes it weren’t so sincere.  But in general, it’s a pretty well-constructed movie, even if it lacks nuance or much of interest to fans of Buñuel’s style.  Rating: Good (70)

IMDb
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