Sunday, August 31, 2014

Here's The Rub. Cantinflas Is A Winner

Pantelion Films
Directed By Sebastian Del Amo
With Oscar Jaenada, Michael Imperioli,
Ilse Salas, Barbara Mori, Joaquin Cosio
Five Scoops of Bosco

Reviewed By Allen Bacon, The Daily Bosco

It is uncanny timing that at around the same time we lost Robin Williams,  one of the great improvisational comedians of our generation, that a biopic about arguably the greatest improvisational comedian of all time has hit the big screen.

Mario Moreno, better known as Cantinflas,  was a beloved Mexican improvisational comedian, film actor, social satirist, producer, and screenwriter.

In possibly the biggest endorsement anybody could receive, Charlie Chaplin once stated that Cantinflas was the best comedian alive.

Cantinflas (who passed away in 1993) starred in over 50 films in Mexico during that country's Golden Age of Cinema but is probably best known in America for his Golden Globe Award winning performance as Passepartout in the 1956 film "Around The World In 80 Days"

Utilizing a wonderful screenplay by Edui Tirjerina and Director Sebastian del Amo, the film toggles back and forth between Moreno's early life in the 1930's as he rises to Mexico's top and most beloved performer and 1955 when he is asked to be in "Around The World..." by Michael Todd (played here by Michael Imperioli, Sopranos) with an assist by Charlie Chaplin (played by Julian Sedgwick).

Oscar Jaenada (Noviembre, Pirates of the Carribbean: On Stranger Tides)  is perfectly cast as Cantinflas.  If you have ever seen a Cantiflas film you will know how much  Jaenada nails the look, the acting and voice of the legendary Mexican comedian almost to the point that you feel that you are watching a documentary.

I get the fact that the producers of this film are trying to interest more American viewers by including the parts about the making of "Around The World..." Cantinflas' best known role in the USA, but the only flaw this film has is that it bogs down a bit in those parts.

The film is at it's best when it concentrates on how Moreno developed his persona of Cantinflas and his rise through the Tent Circuit, portraying impoverished campesinos and how he came to be associated with the national identity of Mexico.

The film is also interesting when focusing on Moreno's stint as president of the Mexican Actor's Guild, a dangerous job in a tempestuous political landscape, and his well-earned reputation as a spokesperson for the downtrodden.

It also has a great love story too.  The relationship between his wife of 30 years, portrayed wonderfully by Ilse Salas, is another highlight of the movie.

Great cinematography, detailed set and costume design, which surely can not be denied at Awards time, places you into the era perfectly.

The film employs the device of having the parts that take place in Mexico in Spanish language with English Subtitles while the parts that take place in 1950's Hollywood are spoken in English with Spanish subtitles, lending to the authenticity.

As in the movie Chaplin about another legendary film comedian, this movie should garner attention at Awards Time and is a must see, especially if you want an insight on how a great comic mind works and how the successful ones make it.

The real test for this film is how it will fare in Cantinflas' home country of Mexico.

The film opens there on September 19.  It opened in the USA this weekend.

1 comment:

Rick Miranda said...

Cantinflas was a fixture in my grandmothers house when I was growing up. He was spoken of as being in the same league as Jerry Lewis or Sid Cesar. A contemporary comic giant only from Mexico. She even had a little Cantinflas marionette puppet she bought on Olvera Street that we would play with. I noticed the stand-up at the theater a couple of weeks ago and my recognition brought some strange looks among the unindoctrinated. It's too bad they didn't get to see the original artist at work. I'm looking forward to this biography of an old familiar from my more chicano roots.