*Y Tu Mama Tambien (R)
Let me start off by saying that Y Tu Mama Tambien is the best film I've seen since last year's brilliant mosaic of Mexican culture, Amores Perros (with the possible exception of Hedwig and the Angry Inch). That said, if you want to be completely surprised by its meticulous storytelling, read no further and go see it.
Like Amores Perros (now on video and DVD), Y Tu Mama takes an empathetic, but unflinching look at the complexities of Mexican society, and succeeds by doing it through a timeless and sexually complex coming-of-age story.
Tenoch (Diego Luna), the son of a wealthy politician, and Julio (Gael Garcia Bernal), the fatherless son of a middle-class working mother, are consummate Mexico City slackers. As soon as their girlfriends are out of the picture (off to a summer of travel in Italy), the fart jokes, drug loving, and general locker-room behaviors ensue while they spend their days swimming alone at the country club on maintenance days. "A week went by and boredom became their daily routine," the narrator summarizes during one of the many brilliantly edited silences just before an unforgettable scene of the duo jerking off on opposite diving boards as they trade fantasies like baseball cards. No detail is left unturned, and we are treated to an underwater shot of the climactic ... shot.
Far from being gratuitous, these kinds of details -- the things that young hormonally challenged young men methodically make note of -- remind you of the real meaning of "truth."
At an extremely high-powered wedding party attended by the president of Mexico, Julio and Tenoch meet the wife of Tenoch's cousin, Luisa (the drop-jaw beauty from La Belle Epoque) and jokingly try to convince her to go with them to a secret, made-up beach called "La Boca del Cielo" (The Mouth of Heaven). Several days later, after Luisa learns that her husband's been cheating on her, she calls Tenoch to take them up on their offer their joke offer, and before you know it there's a love triangle on its way to Oaxaca.
What makes the road movie that follows much more than a Dude, Where's My Car (also a great movie, by the way) is the way that director Alfonso Cuaron punctuates his scenes with long shots of the poor, working-class people that make Tenoch's, Julio's and Luisa's lives possible. The camera follows the woman serving hors d'oeuvres at the wedding party off into the parking lot. We see farmers getting arrested on the roadside, and are taken into the kitchen at restaurants. Such asides give the film an awareness of social/political consequences that doesn't try to resolve or apologize for the existing order.
Also masterfully executed are the highly charged and erotically explicit sex scenes that crack open every taboo in the book including premature ejaculation, homosexuality, and having sex with your best friend's girlfriend, "y tu mama tambien"... and your mother too.
-- Noel Black