I’ve written another piece of film criticism! It’s similar to my salty and popular piece on the poisonous heterosexuality in The Phantom Thread. But this one’s on Alfonso Cuarón’s latest, and it’s called “I Like Being Dead”: making class beautiful in Roma.
I’m experimentally keeping it exclusive to patrons on my patreon.
So this is where you can read it, for as little as $1.
Here’s a teaser trailer for it:
Decades ago, a white settler, Alfonso Cuarón, promised a colonized indigenous Mixtec woman from Oaxaca, Liboria Rodríguez, that he would take her on an airplane; that he would give her the world. Now, in 2019, the media are beaming that this promise has been made good. The elderly Rodríguez has been given occasion to travel. She’s been interviewed, she’s been invited to premieres, she’s been on set with the great Alfonso Cuarón. Why? Because the tantrum-prone boy whose ass she wiped professionally every day in Mexico City has released an internationally acclaimed film depicting, of all things… her!—at least, depicting her labor in the bourgeois household he grew up it—or, more accurately, depicting a slice of that labor as an exercise in perspectival reversal, which the great auteur decided to render central to his gorgeous black-and-white cinematic childhood memoir.
Leaving the Dirty War raging largely off-stage, Roma (2018) chronicles a temporal sequence in 1970 and 1971 in which Rodríguez was even more instrumental than usual to her employers, in that her practically ceaseless work enabled all her charges to survive the father’s abandonment of the household in favour of a mistress and, in particular, allowed his wife, Cuarón’s mother, to reinvent herself—to have a narrative arc. In contrast, the woman Cuarón purports the film is really about does not get a narrative arc. Certainly, a man abandons her, too. A slum-dwelling martial arts fanatic called Fermín gets her pregnant, then threatens to kill her if she tries to involve him in the baby’s life. He later turns out to belong to the elite death squad responsible for the deaths of communist students: Los Halcones (whom the film represents as getting training not only from the CIA but from the “Mexican Houdini” and muscle man, “Professor Zovek”). This is presumably why the lady of the house (“Señora Sofía”) has a drunken lapse in which she imagines her maid (“Cleo”—Rodríguez—played by the first-time actor Yalitza Aparicio) will extend some kind of sisterly solidarity to her when she is ditched by her moneyed husband, a professor of a different kind. “No matter what they tell you,” Sofia slurs to Cleo, “women, we are always alone.”