24 July 2007

All of Mexico Goes Past

Filed under: Movies — ktismatics @ 8:11 am

Y Tu Mama Tambien is a road movie, a quest for the paradise of the imagination, a place they call Heaven’s Mouth. It’s also a coming-of-age movie about innocence lost, though for the two teen-aged Lotharios it’s the kind of innocence that’s perhaps best left behind. And it’s also a movie about innocence reclaimed, if only for a moment, its traces soon washed away in the gentle waves of eternity.

Julio’s girlfriend’s mother, a Lacanian analyst, asserts that the kids’ relationship is innocent. If so then it’s an innocence characterized by self-indulgence. But it’s not an entirely limitless hedonism: there’s the Charolastra Manifesto (yesterday’s post), recited gleefully by Julio and his best friend Tenoch near the beginning of the long drive from the big city to the sea. It’s the passenger in the car, Luisa, the older woman, the object of the boys’ seduction fantasies, who exposes the emptiness of the code and the duplicity of its adherents. As they drive down the road she lays down her own law (in a comment to yesterday’s post), the law of the Big mOther, naked but untouchable — the kind of law that spawns not mere licentiousness but good-old-fashioned desire.

The two Manifestos reveal one kind of portal in this movie; Heaven’s Mouth is another. Then there’s the car, the means of passage between realities. A lot happens inside the car; a lot more happens when the car stops. But what’s happening on the road, outside the car, as they make passage?

– The car passes a VW bug bedecked with flowers — a couple of newlyweds. Julio’s radio is playing a cover of an old BeeGees tune: “you don’t know what it’s like to love somebody…”

– We watch from the side of the highway as the car drives by, the camera positioned next to a couple of hand-made crosses. Marked on one of the crosses: INRI Adolfo Rios 1955.

– All of Mexico goes past, with its bleak and magnificent landscapes, its picturesque and impoverished vilages.

– At one point the narrator tells us that one of these villages, Tepelmeme, is the birthplace of Tenoch’s nanny, an Indian woman who has cared for Tenoch since his birth, whom Tenoch called “Mama” until he was four. Tenoch says nothing about it; the car whizzes by.

– A barricade blocks their passage. It’s a festival of some sort; a woman comes to the car window asking for a contribution for “the Queen.” As the car passes we see two men stoically holding up a lawn chair on which is seated a young and smiling girl wearing a bridal gown.

– Luisa, whose parents died in an automobile accident, tells the two boys that her first boyfriend too was killed on the road. The narrator interjects: if ten years ago the car had passed this very spot on the road they would have come upon an overturned smoldering truck with two bodies lying next to it and a woman standing over them crying inconsolably. Out the window of the car we see two more roadside crosses.

– On the roadside we watch some military policemen searching two cars. Then the road is blocked temporarily by a herd of cattle. After awhile the cattle move aside and the car starts up again. A police truck passes them, then pulls off the road. Through the back window we watch the police jump from the truck and start frisking some men standing by the roadside.

– The car passes a large group of people walking slowly up the road. Some men are carrying a coffin — it’s a funeral procession. The car passes the cemetery, where a burial is underway.

– As Luisa recites her alternative manifesto the car whizzes by another roadside cross, another police shakedown, some women washing clothes in a stream. As soon as Luisa lays down her tenth and final law — “You’re not allowed to contradict me” — they arrive at the end of the road, which is the sea.


  1. Hmm – A dearth of comments on this secular topic.

    Although my memory of the movie is imperfect, your summary elicits recalled thoughts during my viewing:

    1.) The two boys’ reality seemed to exist independent of the greater Mexico around them, their own “Private Idaho”. Oblivious to the birthplace of the nanny or the upper/sub class inequities around them. They seem more than a little like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern in the Tom Stoppard play, unwitting participants in fated events.

    2.) How different the lives of the upper and middle classes in Mexico City are from U.S. preconceptions. The predominant image of Mexican society here is “illegal immigrant”. We have little appreciation for how similar Mexican society is to ours, including participation in pop culture.

    3.) When they meet again some time after the death of Luisa, they have (disappointingly) assumed conventional (fated?) roles apropos of their middle and upper-class status, their fantastical journey with Luisa and their homosexual coupling comfortably suppressed.

    4.) Road movies as a genre include some great films – The Wizard of Oz, Thelma and Louise, 2001, Easy Rider…

    5.) How rich Mexican slang is and how cynical their humor – “Chinga” (F***)has usage similar to English as a verb, noun, adverb, etc. extending far beyond the sex act.

    More in line with your recent posts on the Law and Big Other, yes the same creation of prohibitions by Luisa simultaneously creates their desire. Interesting speculations on your part on Paul’s meaning to break free of the Law. Did Luisa or the boys succeed?

    Comment by Pykoman — 24 July 2007 @ 10:48 pm

  2. I was struck by the sheer decadence of the hedonism of these boys…and I’m not sure it would have been tolerable for me if they hadn’t been “coming of age” (and everything else for that matter). Here was Luisa putting up with all of their foolishness and finally guiding them to some other level. It was interesting, too, that they had to be intoxicated to go there. I mean, each was happy to be with her without alcohol or drugs, but when it came time to experience something else, they were bombed.

    All of that is in contrast to the family that helped them at the beach. What wonders they were; always there to assist and to offer just what the “heros” needed. And the family watched quietly without commentary that whole scene as the stories and boasts of those boys grew to outlandish proportions…along with their anatomies.

    Yes, it was a rich film. And the view from the car windows was worth the price of admission all by itself.

    Meilleurs voeux!!

    Comment by blueVicar — 25 July 2007 @ 1:07 am

  3. This is one that I have yet to see, hence the absence of comment. From what you folks say tho, it does sound like one to dig up!

    Comment by samlcarr — 25 July 2007 @ 10:36 am

  4. “More in line with your recent posts on the Law and Big Other, yes the same creation of prohibitions by Luisa simultaneously creates their desire.”

    Am I crazy, or is it partially just that Luisa is really hot?

    Although I must say, the basic structure of the film lends itself to such interpretations as The Doyle’s.

    And is to get “bombed” to let surface surpressed desire, suppressions imposed by the Big Other?

    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 25 July 2007 @ 11:18 am

  5. “The two boys’ reality seemed to exist independent of the greater Mexico around them, their own “Private Idaho”.”

    Certainly these three people lead insular lives, but it seems that Cuaron intended to show also their embeddedness in a cultural milieu, a context of which they’re not even consciously aware. Historically Latino cinema has commented on the interplay of the church, the military, the (virgin) mother, death. The result often took the form of surrealism, paranoia, obsession, fetishism, violence. Is it significant that Luisa, the older woman, is Spanish rather than Mexican? Doesn’t she introduce some of these old themes into the story?

    At the same time the car is driving deeper and deeper into Indian Mexico, with its roadside shrines and its festivals, its countryside and its villages. The end of the road leads them into the lives of an Indian fisherman and his family at Heaven’s Mouth. Tenoch the “preppie” kid has an Indian name, had an Indian nanny he called “Mama.” The Indians at the end of the road. You point out that Mexican middle class life is similar to the US, but it’s also got this hybrid nature — old Spain, old Indian. It’s lost in Mexico City, but the movie brings both these older traditions into play.

    Comment by ktismatics — 25 July 2007 @ 12:08 pm

  6. Did Julio and Tenoch break free of the Law? I’m not sure. On the road they reveal to each other that they violated the Charolastra Manifesto, most notably #5. This self-revelation is sort of a manifestation of rule #10 — “the truth rules” — but it turns out that the truth can be a weapon and a wedge between people. They both allow themselves to be seduced by Luisa — her suggestion is that for their own lovemaking prowess they give up rule #7.

    I think Luisa created an alternative manifesto in order to generate the frustrated longing instilled by the old moral codes. But she also has in mind violating the code, which enables her to maneuver the two boys into doing the unimaginable. Does this free them? I think it frees them of the illusions of freedom conveyed by their self-proclaimed hedonistic lifestyle. Which is a freedom of a sort, I believe — freed of the naivete of the Charolastra Manifesto.

    Comment by ktismatics — 25 July 2007 @ 12:17 pm

  7. “Am I crazy, or is it partially just that Luisa is really hot?”

    Well…. maybe

    “Although I must say, the basic structure of the film lends itself to such interpretations as The Doyle’s.”

    The girlfriend’s mom is a Lacanian analyst: random back story info, or interpretive clue? You decide.

    “And is to get “bombed” to let surface surpressed desire, suppressions imposed by the Big Other?”

    Absolutely, especially when the Big mOther is actively helping you get, er, unsuppressed.

    Comment by ktismatics — 25 July 2007 @ 1:18 pm

  8. I don’t really think of the “Big mOther” as being quite so hot, lol. Although I guess it’d be nice. I once went to a pretty cool gathering of religious black folk in Compton, highlighted by the visit of an African shaman. There were some pretty quiet but strong-spirited big black women there, lol. That night I had a dream in which Demeter, if you will, in the form of a big huge black woman, sitting there quietly, encouraged me to interact with women a bit differently.

    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 25 July 2007 @ 1:39 pm

  9. She’s a “big mamma”

    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 25 July 2007 @ 2:14 pm

  10. Interesting that your unconscious image of Big mOther is a big lusty black woman.

    Comment by ktismatics — 25 July 2007 @ 4:16 pm

  11. Hardy har. But I said nothing about “lusty.” Maybe for some, though. Lol. Or shoot, maybe for those 4,000 year old pre-historics.

    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 25 July 2007 @ 4:24 pm

  12. In the Freudian/Lacanian mythology the father says to his son: “She’s mine; go find your own woman or else!” Often this results in the separation of the idealized (virgin) mother, marriageable but asexual, and the hot babe who’s distinctly not like dear old mom and who for that reason can be the object of sexual desire. Maybe the similarity of one’s lust fantasies to one’s own mother is an indication of the weakness of the father and his inability to lay down the law and mean it. I’d say that in “Y Tu Mama Tambien” Luisa is a hot version of the virgin mother: thin, pleasant, reserved — when the boys first see her she’s dressed in a white gown, and she wears white or off-white clothing throughout (when she’s wearing clothing that is).

    Comment by ktismatics — 25 July 2007 @ 5:08 pm

  13. Could it work in the opposite way. Could the separation happen because the Mother was herself overly angry and forceful and in that way repulsive? The big woman in my dream was very gentle, but very powerful (and not just because she was big).

    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 25 July 2007 @ 5:21 pm

  14. Also, I was just thinking of my past experiences with this issue of hotness vs. motherliness. I realized that often I avoid the sultry ones because that’s their schtick, the identity they take on…which tells me that they aren’t interesting in the “hard work” of committment and of forging through the hard and difficult times to “raise the bell to the sky,” if you will (to reference “Andrei Rublev”)…that they are more interested in a fantastical view of reality like imitating Paris Hilton or whatever version of sultriness you might consider.

    Then, however, the more motherly ones are usually just unattractive, which is…although not always. When not, they’re usually more just not confident enough to let themselves be read…or maybe themselves just not interested, I dunno.


    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 25 July 2007 @ 5:41 pm

  15. I forgot to mention. My previous comment is I think wrapped up in my “looking for Ms. Right” (rather than Ms. Right Now) issue.


    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 25 July 2007 @ 5:48 pm

  16. “Could it work in the opposite way.”

    Sure, that makes sense: the mother who regards the son’s demand for intimacy inappropriate, disgusting, etc. and pushes the son away, either by force or by making herself appear unattractive.

    The self-consciously sultry “schtick” could be a kind of narcissism focused more on attracting others’ attention and admiration for its own sake, rather than attracting sexual or emotional involvement.

    Comment by ktismatics — 25 July 2007 @ 6:21 pm

  17. “The self-consciously sultry ‘schtick’ could be a kind of narcissism focused more on attracting others’ attention and admiration for its own sake, rather than attracting sexual or emotional involvement.”

    That makes a lot of sense. I think the Bible calls that “foolish.” Once in that mode, though, then where’s the line between attention for its own sake and emotional or sexual involvement? Might such “involvements” just seve the narcissism?

    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 25 July 2007 @ 6:29 pm

  18. I’ll feign expertise here and say that for the narcissist having sex would be a way of drawing the partner’s esteem into herself, a way of taking possession of his admiration of her. Sort of masturbatory, since she sees herself as attractive through her partner’s eyes. Emotional involvement would be much more difficult to attain than physical involvement.

    Comment by ktismatics — 25 July 2007 @ 6:37 pm

  19. From her position, is emotional involvement to be attained by another or allowed by herself?

    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 25 July 2007 @ 6:45 pm

  20. BTW my New Age friends describe this “taking possession” as vampirism.

    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 25 July 2007 @ 6:53 pm

  21. Vampirism? Yes, I see. I think emotional involvement could be bestowed upon her as an homage, and she would permit this obeisance. The admirer serves as an external source of self-esteem.

    Comment by ktismatics — 25 July 2007 @ 11:10 pm

  22. That blows. Wierd…she’s expecting “obeisance,” and I can’t respect her for that very reason. Sounds, too, like she’s asking for a fall. But then Lacan doesn’t seem to have a vision for a rising.

    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 26 July 2007 @ 1:35 am

  23. With my reference to Lacan…I meant to say that he seems like a bit of a tragic figure. I suppose he would think of his freedom from the Big Other as a kind of rising.

    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 26 July 2007 @ 1:36 am

  24. Coming back to a slightly earlier theme: Fathers and daughters, mothers and sons… how does one let go to let live?

    “Hush, my baby. Baby, don’t you cry.
    Momma’s gonna make all of your nightmares come true.
    Momma’s gonna put all of her fears into you.
    Momma’s gonna keep you right here under her wing.
    She won’t let you fly, but she might let you sing.
    Momma’s gonna keep Baby cozy and warm.
    Oooo Babe.
    Oooo Babe.
    Ooo Babe, of course Momma’s gonna help build a wall.
    Mother, do you think she’s good enough,
    For me?
    Mother, do you think she’s dangerous,
    To me?
    Mother will she tear your little boy apart?
    Ooooowaa Mother, will she break my heart?
    Hush, my baby. Baby, don’t you cry.
    Momma’s gonna check out all your girlfriends for you.
    Momma won’t let anyone dirty get through.
    Momma’s gonna wait up until you get in.
    Momma will always find out where you’ve been.
    Momma’s gonna keep Baby healthy and clean.”

    from ‘Mother’ by Pink Floyd

    Comment by samlcarr — 26 July 2007 @ 2:35 am

  25. “I suppose he would think of his freedom from the Big Other as a kind of rising.”

    You could make a case that Lacan follows the Christian paradigm to the hilt. Until you die to whatever hopes you entertain about becoming a whole person, you can never rise.

    Comment by ktismatics — 26 July 2007 @ 12:01 pm

  26. Good Freudian/Lacanian lyrics. I don’t know The Wall story very well, but I think it goes like this: Pink’s has no father, his mother is overprotective, and Pink ends up in a passionless marriage. Freudian imagery has become so pervasive it’s hard to know how much of it is true versus what we impose on our lives from having seen or heard it in the media.

    I’ve encouraged our 14-year-old daughter not to date until she’s, oh, thirty years old or so.

    Comment by ktismatics — 26 July 2007 @ 12:16 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

The WordPress Classic Theme. Blog at WordPress.com.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 104 other followers

%d bloggers like this: