MoMA to Present Mexican Film Noir Series

The Museum of Modern Art in New York City will be showcasing the film series “Mexico at Midnight: Film Noir from Mexican Cinema’s Golden Age” from July 23-29 presenting seven feature films with some of the country’s biggest stars such as María Félix, Dolores del Río, Pedro Armendáriz, Arturo de Córdova and Andrea Palma.

The selection includes four films directed by Roberto Gavaldón: La otra / The Other One (1946), La diosa arrodillada / The Kneeling Goddess (1947), En la palma de tu mano / In the Palm of Your Hand (1951), and La noche avanza / Night Falls (1952); two films directed by Julio Bracho: Distinto amanecer / Another Dawn (1943), and Crepúsculo / Twilight (1945); plus the film Que Dios me perdone / May God Forgive Me by Tito Davison (1948).

Of all the great national, popular cinemas that prospered in the 20th century, the one that remains least well known to American audiences is, paradoxically, the one that originated closest to Hollywood. The Mexican cinema’s época de oro extended from the mid-1930s to the early 1960s, when Mexican films dominated Latin America and made significant inroads into Spanish-speaking communities in the U.S.

At its height, in the decade during and following World War II, Mexican popular filmmaking achieved a level of quality fully comparable to Hollywood, with a robust star system (with such magnetic performers as Dolores de Rio, Pedro Armendáriz, Maria Felix, and Arturo de Cordova), world-class directors like  Gavaldón, Bracho, and Emilio Fernández, cinematographers such as Gabriel Figueroa and Alex Phillips, and the superb technical facilities of the Churubusco Studios.

With the support of Fundación Televisa and Filmoteca de la UNAM, MoMA presents a sampling of one of Mexico’s richest genres, the ciné negro or film noir. As the critic Rafael Aviña has written, these films present the culture of the Miguel Alemán administration (1946–52), a time when Mexico was trying to trace a path to modernity by “favoring foreign investment, industrial development and the exploitation of natural resources, which led to a certain sense of civil disorder and an explosion of the senses.”

Even seasoned noir fans will be startled and thrilled by these selections, which treat sexual passion and murderous jealousy with a vigor unimaginable in contemporary Hollywood productions.

This Mexican film noir series was originally screened at the Morelia Film Festival last October.