In Memoriam: José Emilio Pacheco and Film

Beloved Mexican poet, novelist, translator and screenwriter José Emilio Pacheco (pictured) died yesterday at the age of 74, the day after suffering a traumatic fall resulting from a heart attack.

As a principal figure in the so-called Generación de los 50, Pacheco was considered one of the most significant Latin American poets of the second half of the 20th century. A winner of the Cervantes Prize for literature, among numerous other awards, Pacheco had also a short yet fruitful relationship with screenwriting, best known in the film world for his frequent collaboration with director Arturo Ripstein.

In the early 70s, he worked with Jorge Fons and Eduardo Luján in the script of Los cachorros / The Cubs, which was directed by Fons and was based on a short story by Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa.

In 1972, Pacheco worked for the first time with Ripstein in the the touchstone film El castillo de la pureza / The Castle of Purity (pictured right) which was based on a real story. Starring Claudio Brook, Diana Bracho, and Arturo Beristain, the film tells the story of a disciplined man who keeps his family isolated in his home for years to protect them from what he thinks is the evil nature of human beings while producing rat poison. Pacheco won Mexico's national film prize, the Ariel Award for Best Screenplay.

A few years later Pacheco teamed up with Ripstein again for the screenplay of the film El Santo Oficio / The Holy Office, a period production about the Inquisition played out in the Americas, and was followed soon after by the failed English language Mexican-British co-production, Foxtrot / The Far Side of Paradise, starring Peter O'Toole and Charlotte Rampling, in 1976.

Pacheco worked with Jaime Humberto Hermosillo in the script of La pasíon según Berenice / The Passion of Berenice, an uncredited collaboration, in 1976. He worked once again with Ripstein in the documentary film Lecumberri (1977), and in their last collaboration, he worked on the screenplay of El lugar sin límites / Hell Without Limits (pictured below right, 1978) with fellow writers José Donoso and Manuel Puig, based on Donoso's novel. 

Pacheco's last work as a screenwriter was for the short film El principio del placer, based on his own short story of the same name, directed by Hilda Soriano in 1981. Some years later, in 1987, Alberto Isaac directed the film Mariana, Mariana (pictured above left), based on Pacheco's novel “Battles in the Desert,” which was adapted for the screen by Vicente Leñero. Originally, the film was to be directed by José Estrada but he died before production began, and Isaac stepped in.