Wednesday, September 16, 2009


It is said that when you die, all that remains is your memory in the minds of those you leave behind. In that case, a young man named Jorge (his last name was -- variously -- Riosse, Ríos, Rossenberg and Cariño) who departed this plane of existence in his late 20s or early 30s (his age is debatable, too) has left behind him quite a wealth of memor-
ies. These remain indelible in the minds of the older woman who owned the rooming house in which Jorge lived for eight years, her maid, her granddaughter Yulene Olaizola (shown just above, who doubles as filmmaker) and a few acquaintances. Together, this group creates a strange and diverse portrait of a handsome, troubled and very complicated young man who was a poet, artist, and – golly, wow – something more.

The somewhat unwieldy title Intimidades de Shakespeare y Víctor Hugo (that might better be translated as Intimacies at the corner of Shakespeare and Victor Hugo) refers to the intimate knowledge we gain about what happened in this rooming house, located at the intersection of Shakespeare and Victor Hugo streets in Mexico City and owned by Rosa Elena Carbajal (who is shown at top and below). Rosa Elena is one memorable woman: vain, passionate, sad, troubled, clearly in love -- even now -- with her late boarder, and still working very hard to understand the ramifications of what transpired between him and her (and some other women, as well). We learn bit by bit about all of this, and our jaw drops a notch lower with each new revelation.

Along the way, we come to understand, in sidelong glances, something of the state of the artist, the homosexual, and the nutcase in Mexican society. As one acquaintance of Jorge notes in passing, “He was like these people who are so intelligent that they sort of lose it: They get weird.” So does this story, which goes places by its finish that you would not have imagined possible at its start. The documentary most likely to come to mind – though nothing comes very close to Intimidades – is Morgan Dews' Must Read After My Death. By its finale, whether it means to or not, the film has nailed to the wall everyone from the police and the Church to dear old mom. (Apple pie remains untouched, but only perhaps because it may not be as popular in Mexico.)

When I interviewed Mexican filmmaker Fernando Eimbcke (Duck Season, Lake Tahoe) a couple of months back, he explained that there were many new independent Mexican films doing well on the international festival circuit that were unable, due to poor distri-
bution practices and possibly unreceptive audiences, to reach even the most stalwart film-lovers in Mexico itself. Intimidades was the film he singled out as one of the most praiseworthy examples, and now, having seen it, I certainly agree. It will screen as part of the FSLC's Latinbeat festival at the Walter Reade Theater this Friday, September 18, at 6:30pm and again on Monday, September 21, at 4:30pm. Be there -- to gasp and wonder.

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