I got out of the movie theater with my 3D glasses still on; behind them my eyes were completely bloodshot. I cried, yes, like a always cry at the movies, but through the wet blur of my conditioned tears I did see a film.
Dia de Muertos is a date of magical realism. It’s secular, because it’s part of the curriculum; it’s humorous because it makes light of Death; it’s bittersweet, because there’s always room for one more portrait at the altar; it’s solemn, and mad, and gloomy, and silly, but above all it’s made of memories. The good thing is that after Coco, I don’t need to explain it to you. It’s practically the same thing people feel and do, maybe with a little less bones. My Grandma still talks with my Grandpa after 17 years, always lost in her love story, and Mami Tere has always had place for an altar, after 30 years. Everyone in his one way, even skeptics and intellectuals, make altars, even for famous people, by themselves or going big. Marigolds are only second to the Noche Buena flower, which makes the Dia de Muertos one of the 3 biggest holidays.
Pixar, aided by many happy accidents and previous takes, made a movie that treated a delicate subject for a delicate audience marvelously. My Mexico is a land of complainers, yet, of all the voices there were, only hymns of praise could be heard. Thanks to a public relations blunder, very critical advisors joined the production to help with its authenticity. Thanks to Guillermo del Toro as a producer, an earlier take on the Day of The Dead forced Disney to take a different path, because it’s more what it’s not included (what deities to choose to reign the Land of the Dead?), that what it’s showed for a place named in a thousand euphemisms. The Book of Life had Placido Domingo singing Cielito Lindo, and Coco had the equally fitting La Llorona.
Another thing they nailed was the Mexican family structure. The old with the young; matriarchy as the norm, yet a machismo society. Strong women, always toiling and keeping everything together. Food at the center of everything, and laughter at the side. Music and color contrasting a melodramatic and anachronistic view of life, that is never serious, even after it.
The movie was simply great. I was in tears listening to the Disney intro, in Mariachi style. There’s nothing as good as being represented. I felt fresh, and embraced, and celebrated. Disney was tender, even predictable in its story. But the movie feels like what should be, like those tales you know everything about yet you still sit and listen at the table. It feels a little surreal, even blushingly flattering, to have a big, big studio making a movie about your culture. They do they usual thing. Fiddle with your heart, touch all the right chords, scratch at your heartstrings, and well, you feel the movie could be longer, wouldn’t you?
Mama Coco is the loveliest character, although there are a lot (yet not even half of the half of what conforms a real Mexican family tree), and the obvious outstanding song is the unforgettable ‘Remember Me.’
I wanted to say more things, but I have to say good-bye. I watched this movie last Wednesday and ever since every review and every mention and even the stories about it’s reception in China has made me teary-eyed. I didn’t even had a complain with the Spanish. And in retrospect now I see why it wouldn’t be easy to translate our tradition of calaveritas literarias or alfeniques. I am posting a translation of La Llorona as soon as I can.
Oh, and did I mention the animation?