Film

Miss Bala (Gerardo Naranjo, 2011)

An offbeat and unusual crime thriller about the Mexico drug trade that feels like an experimental New Wave cinema from the 1970s. Essentially, it’s a meditation on the fragile existence and life/death situations shown from the pov of a young woman trying to compete in Mexico’s national beauty contest.

Its style and themes resemble other classic world cinema films about life in South American slums, such as Pixote (Hector Babenco, 1981), I Am Cuba (Mikhail Kalatozov, 1964) and City of God (Fernando Meirelles and Kátia Lund, 2002), but this time given contemporary twist that could be viewed as a companion, or precursor, to Sicario (Denis Villeneuve, 2015), especially since the same actor appears to play the chief villain in both films.

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Although visually, the long takes, tracking camera and dark tones, resemble Sicario, the plot itself follows the misfortunes of single character on a Voltaire’s novel Candide trajectory into hell.

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Interestingly, and unlike the brilliant score on Sicario, there is no music whatsoever to indicate what is about to happen next. It also reminded me of Bresson’s Au hasard Balthazar (1966) and the harrowing Russian war film Come and See (Elem Klimov, 1985), both of examining the destruction and degradation of an individual thrust in maelstrom of conflict and violence. The central character remains held in seemingly perpetual cycle of confusion, going from one disaster to the next. It gives the impression of realism, and events happening to real-time, no matter how surreal it is whenever the hoodlum reappears to drag her back into the fray.

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Robert Bresson-Au hasard Balthazar (1966).avi_snapshot_00.52.23_[2011.04.08_15.26.04]

There’s very little explanation as to why these events are happening, are if, like in Kafka’s The Trial, the herione is somehow involved on a symbolic level with the chaos around her. First she is used she is used as a delivery driver, then as an informer, then as a double-agent, then as decoy in the beauty contest, and then as a Trojan Horse, before being abandoned like the donkey in Balthazar, but still alive somehow.

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