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El Compadre Mendoza

El Compadre Mendoza (1934) is the second entry in a trio of films directed by Mexico's Fernando de Fuentes and set during the Mexican Revolution. (The other two are 1933's El Prisionero Trece and 1936's Vamonos con Pancho Villa) Alfredo del Diestro stars as Rosalio Mendoza, an opportunistic landowner who survives by alternately aligning himself with governmental forces and the revolutionary army. He even switches portraits on the wall of his hacienda, swapping General Victoriano Huerta and Emiliano Zapata back and forth, depending on whose troops are approaching. Mendoza names a young Zapatista leader godfather to his son, but betrays his kinsman under pressure from the politics of the moment.

When de Fuentes made his film, Mexico was still emerging from the disruptions of the 1910 revolution. The country's promising silent-film industry came to an end as Mexican actors such as Dolores Del Rio and Ramon Navarro had moved on to Hollywood. But the revolution energized all of the Mexican arts, and de Fuentes was at the forefront of a revitalized filmmaking scene. His revolution trilogy is considered his most personal work, with all three films investigating the realities beneath the romantic legends of that period of Mexican history. Judy Bloch of the Pacific Film Archive described El Compadre Mendoza as "a complex analysis of the corrupted ideals of the Mexican Revolution, and in particular of the self-interested ambivalence of the middle class."

An admirer of expressionistic German director F.W. Murnau (Nosferatu, 1922), de Fuentes was fond of long tracking shots in the Murnau style. His visual approach also has been compared to that of American director John Ford, with his backgrounds providing as much dramatic tension as the actors in the foreground. De Fuentes and his works, notably El Compadre Mendoza, were rediscovered in the 1960s by French critic Georges Sadoul, who saluted the film's "humor, vivid sense of observation, and memories of the Mexican Revolution (then still very recent)."

De Fuentes (1894-1958), who began as a movie-house manager and film editor, directed his first film, El Anonimo, in 1933, and quickly established himself as a leading figure in the Mexican film industry. In addition to his more serious films, he directed a number of popular entertainments including Asi se quiere en Jalisco (1942), Mexico's first color feature.

Producers: Jose Castellot Hijo, Rafael Angel Frias, Antonio Prida Santacilia
Director: Fernando de Fuentes
Screenplay: Juan Bustillo Oro, Fernando de Fuentes, from story by Oro and Mauricio Magdaleno
Cinematography: Ross Fisher
Original Music: Manuel Castro Padilla
Editing: Fernando de Fuentes
Art Direction: Beleho
Principal Cast: Alfredo del Diestro (Rosalio Mendoza), Carmen Guerrero (Dolores "Lolita" Garcia Mendoza), Antonio R. Frausto (Gen. Felipe Nieto), Luis G. Barreiro (Atenogenes), Emma Roldan (Maria, the mute), Jose Ignacio Rocha (Jeronimo, the servant).
BW-85m.

by Roger Fristoe VIEW TCMDb ENTRY

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