Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Saturday, 28 May 2016

Dona Herlinda thinks the world of you

We are back online after almost a month! BT seemed unable to connect it to this new apartment block we moved into over 3 week ago! But you know, one could practically live without it, as we decanted ourselves into our new living space and got used to high-rise living 10 floors up - great views, particularly at night! Now we are back, starting with a brace of too little known gay items from the 1980s - both full of pleasures. Here is what I wrote on the Mexican DONA HERLINDA AND HER SON and the 1988 British comedy WE THINK THE WORLD OF YOU, a few years ago. Great to see them again ..

This 1986 film from Mexico is as delightful now as it must have been then. Director Jaime Humberto Hermosillo presents a comedy of manners raising the lid on sexuality in Latin America, and how a family can resolve things so everyone gets what they want.

Widowed Dona Herlinda wants what she sees as every woman's right: to be loved and cherished and for her only son to be married and provide her with grandchildren. But Rodolfo is gay and in love with Ramon, a music student. But with goodwill on all sides, including that of Olga, the bride-to-be, all ends happily as Dona Herlnda makes Ramon part of the family. This charming comedy is perceptive, discreet, unshocking and witty and recommended to all but the most blinkered. 

Rodolfo is the surgeon son of Dona Herlinda, a wealthy widow, expertly played by Guadalupe del Toro, Rodolfo is having a relationship with Ramon, a music student, but they can never find time to be alone at the cramped house where he lives. Dona Herlinda, who obviously must know what is really going on between her son and Ramon, invites the young man to move to her large house in Guadalajara, but she also wants Rodolfo to marry and present her with a grand-child. The film is endearing, the characters very much alive, and the many twists and turns on the story make this movie funny and poignant at the same time. Arturo Meza (Ramon), Marco Antonio Trevino (Rodolfo) and Leticia Lupercio (Olga) suit their roles perfectly. Hermosillo seems the only openly gay Mexican director and he is still making movies. I shall have to investigate further ...
Rodolfo, who must cover his true nature, begins to see Olga, a young woman from his same circle. He proposes and marries her, breaking Ramon's heart in the process. Dona Herlinda, who is more intelligent than she is given credit for, pulls strings to keep Ramon at her home and decides to expand the house so that Rodolfo and Olga can move in with the grandson and live together happily ever after. Olga wants to study and travel so the arrangement suits her, and the boys can be together too.

Of course, the film is in simple terms a fun story, but deep inside it touches a lot of themes that have been taboo in so many societies. Usually mothers aren't as accepting as this Dona Herlinda, who acts as a procurer for the son she loves by inviting the young lover, Ramon, to come live with her. One deeply amusing scene has Dona Herlinda and Ramon together at a music event, while Rodolfo and Olga are away on honeymoon. Ramon is affected by the music and begins to cry, as Dona Herlinda without a word passes him a hankie. It ends with the expanded family all together as the son toasts his wonderful mother, who smiles serenely back at us.
Hermosillo seems a very interesting director, I should see other of his films, I caught one on television once, another gay related story, starring Fassbinder's muse Hanna Schygulla. His movie reminds me a lot of Almodovar of whom more later.
I particularly like WE THINK THE WORLD OF YOU in 1988, an engrossing drama from the novel by J R Ackerley with Bates as the solitary civil servant who falls for the neglected Alsatian dog of his sometimes lover, a spiv well played by Gary Oldman. The marvellous cast includes Liz Smith and Max Wall as Oldman’s malevolent parents and Frances Barber as his opportunistic wife all out to make capital from Bates’ involvement with Oldman. Both Alan and Oldman play it perfectly together and the scenes with Alan and the dog are a joy as is the 1950s period detail. Man and dog are happily re-united at the end as Oldman after a spell in jail has to settle for dull, if noisy, domesticity with that screaming infant!

Or as the BFI put it: "OK, so its not as great as Ackerley's perfect novel, but its an intelligent, entertaining gay movie - rare in Britain. Alan Bates plays the literary gent bosotted by ex-sailor boy Johnny (Gary Oldman) and his grotesque working class family and their Alsatian dog. Baically its more about class than anything else, and therefore typically British. Often witty and astringent, and finally moving". UK 1988, director: Colin Gregg." 
Bates playing gay again (as he did in BUTLEY, NIJINSKY, AN ENGLISHMAN ABROAD, 102 BOULEVARD HAUSSMAN) is a joy as usual - and Oldman, a year after his Joe Orton in PRICK UP YOUR EARS - see recent review, gay label - is compulsive as usual, while Frances Barber in one of her early roles is perfection as the grasping wife. 

1 comment:

  1. Excellent reviews of a couple of very decent gay-themed movies. Time to try to catch DONA HERLINDA .... again.