Thursday, July 15, 2010

Fantasia 2010: We Are What We Are (2010) Mexico

Blame Cerebus for this.

Maybe I should explain...

I have been a member of a message board run by Christopher Robin Zimmerman called virtually since it opened 8 years ago. Cerebus is another long-term poster. Like me, he likes obscure cinema. Unlike me, his taste runs more to the demented and the extreme. Films that would leave me whimpering and catatonic, Cerebus considers effete and feeble. If I called Cerebus a sick, deviant fuck, he would probably take is a compliment.

Case in point, Cerebus' reaction to The Human Centipede, "wasn't really all that great to me. Probably cause I've see the same type of stuff (extreme body modification) up close and live. When you see a guy strap his cock and balls up causing the blood flow to stop and use an exacto knife to cut his junk off... something like THAT kinda ruins it for you I suppose."


Because I am an idiot, I sort of let Cerebus pick a film for me to see at Fantasia each year. Last year it was Embodiment of Evil. This year, the film he picked for me was just as sick, just as deviant and just as evil as Cerebus himself. Not because of in-your-face gore and horror. This film is as subtle as a frozen-water icepick. It sneaks oh so softly into your cerebellum and gently, gently, gently sodomizes your conscience.

We Are What We Are aka "Somos lo que hay" (2010) Mexico imdb Written and Directed by Jorge Michel Grau

We Are What We Are begins with a desperate, bedraggled tramp of a man, the very picture of Poverty, lurching through a Mexican outdoor mall, leering at lingerie-clad mannequins through a store's plate-glass window. The store's manager (owner?) chases Poverty away and polishes his window back to a shine, wiping away the drool. Poverty sees his reflection in the window as if for the first time, or the first time in years and the sight stuns him like an electric shock. Stumbling to the ground, spitting out black bile on the polished mall floor, Poverty falls and dies.

The film pauses for a second, as if to ask if there is room in this Mexico for sympathy, rescue or hope. Then two mall security guards arrive and efficiently carry the body away. Behind them a mall maintenance man arrives with a mop to wash away Poverty's bile. In this Mexico, the poor are so wretched that they can not even leave behind their stains.

We come to know this man through the family that he leaves behind. We come to understand that he was neither a good man to his community, nor a good husband to his wife, nor even a good father to his children. But if this man's family lived lives of quiet desperation and hopelessness while he was alive, with him dead they are doomed.

We become so invested in the survival of this family, that we begin to not just condone almost unspeakable acts of evil that this family plans to commit. we begin to cheer these atrocities and root for the family to succeed and get away with it.

There is a moment in Psycho, when a detective comes calling at the Bates Motel, looking for the Janet Leigh character. After the detective is killed, Norman Bates places the P.I.'s body in his car and pushes the car into the murky swamp behind the Motel. The car sinks and sinks and sinks and then... pauses... half-buried and half-exposed, teetering between secrecy and exposure. When the car slips under the surface with a breathy gurgle, most people guiltily realize that they have been holding their breath, suddenly Norman Bates' silent accomplices. We Are What We Are is like that without the guilt.

Imagine that you are standing in front of a lake on a blistering hot, sunny day. The lake is fed by mountain springs and you know that the water will be bitterly cold, but you will feel better in the lake's icy water than out in the sun. You stand torn between diving quickly into the lake and getting it over with, or walking slowly, gradually into the cold of the lake. Imagine further that the water of the lake is suddenly removed and you walk out into the middle of the suddenly dry lake bed. It begins to rain: cold, cold, cold teardrops all around you. The rain falls slowly enough that the cold water is refreshing in the hot sun, but fast enough that the lake quickly refills and before you know it you are floating in the icy water at the center of the lake.

That is what We Are What We Are is like only rather than icy cold water, you are gradually being immersed in evil.

Watching Somos lo que hay is like drowning in Evil - one teardrop at a time.

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