Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Movie of the Week: "Salón México" (1949) - Review

Salón México (1949) was the featured film for the week of June 2nd-9th.

*Epilepsy Warning: Use of animated GIF images in this post*


"Mercedes (Marga Lopez) dances for money with the clients of Salon Mexico, a famous cabaret in Mexico City. Her younger sister Beatriz (Silvia Derbez) studies in an expensive private school, paid by Mercedes. Obviously, young Beatriz doesn't know about her sister's job. Troubles begin when Mercedes wins a danzon contest with Paco (Rodolfo Acosta), her pimp. Paco refuses to share the prize with Mercedes, so she steals the money when he's sleeping." [IMDb]



Man, oh man, do I love a good Film Noir--crime, darkness, dreariness. If you ask me, some of the best classic films written are Hollywood Pre-Code and 1940's Film Noir. Salón México is a Spanish-language film, so of course, (as is always the case when I watch Spanish-language movies), I didn't understand the dialogue, but for the most part, I was able to keep up with the story.

Mercedes (Marga López) and Paco (Rodolfo Acosta) in a dance contest.

Like most Film Noir, Salón México was a very "human" film--dark, sad, emotional. This isn't to say that life is always dark, sad, and emotional, but movies like this tend to be more risqué, yet honest, than others of the era. Even though the conservatism of the time left certain things unsaid (like Mercedes being a "dancer"...with a pimp...I guess it happens...), you could watch these movies knowing that things like this were and are happening in real life. You don't get this feeling from an MGM musical or a screwball comedy. At least, I don't get the feeling from them.



There weren't any bad performances in this film, but to be honest, no one actor really seemed to "stand out"--not to me, anyway. Nonetheless, performances were natural, believable, and solid--and not every film has to have a star or a breakout performance to be good.



If you've seen the style of one Film Noir, you've seen the style of them all. However, it is important to mention that the cinematography was done by the great Gabriel Figueroa, so while there's the typical stark contrast between darkness and light and use of shadows, Figueroa and director, Emilio Fernandez, also take advantage of the environment in which they're filming. For example, they create a sense of intimacy when they close in on tight circles of dancers and in that same tightness, they create an almost claustrophobic feeling in moments of not so intimate moments. It really is a beautiful film to look at--and even the slightest shots or camera movements can evoke certain vibes and feelings in each of your senses. Beautiful people and beautiful location, beautifully shot.

Sympathetic policeman, Lupe López (Miguel Inclán) and Paco - note the conspicuous use of light.


Overall Thoughts

I think it's way past time for me to invest in Rosetta Stone! I want to push through the language barrier by using context clues, but every movie review deserves thoroughness, so maybe during my "hiatus", I can start learning some Spanish! But back to the topic at hand, I would highly recommend that you all watch Salón México. I certainly can see myself watching it on several Saturday and Sunday nights!

*Watch Salón México (1949) on YouTube*
(Animated GIF Images were created from this video link)

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