Dir: Arturo Ripstein. Mexico-France-Spain. 2000. 98mins.
Prod Co: Filmania, Gardenia, Foprocine, Wanda Vision, DMVB Films, Seceuncia 13. Int'l Sales: World Sales. Prods: Laura Imperiale, Jorge Sanchez, Alvaro Garnica. Assoc prods: Jose Maria Morales, Thierry Forte. Scr: Paz Alicia Garciadiego inspired by Seneca's Medea. DoP: Guillermo Granillo. Prod des: Claudio Contreras. Ed: Carlos Puente. Mus: David Mansfield. Main cast: Arcelia Ramirez, Luis Felipe Tovar, Patricia Reyes Spindola, Ernesto Yanez.
Inspired by Greek tragedy Medea and shot on digital video, the latest, low-budget venture from Mexican director Arturo Ripstein is more likely to win plaudits for its technical accomplishment than its dramatic intensity. Static, repetitive and very theatrical, it's a heavy-going slog that holds even less commercial appeal than his previous Cannes competition entry El Coronel No Time Quien Le Escriba (No One Writes To The Colonel).
Set mostly within the confines of a drab apartment, the film opens with a lengthy monologue from Arcelia Ramirez's Julia who has been abandoned by her boxer husband for a younger woman. Having given him the best years of her life, she is incensed that he also intends to keep their children. Her problems are exacerbated by an eviction notice. Chained to her misery, she is pushed towards a suitably melodramatic revenge.
The film's strongest asset is a passionate performance from Ramirez who convincingly illustrates the old maxim that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. Unfortunately, even her work cannot compensate for a slow pace and a predictable sense of exactly where the film might be heading.
Ripstein further dilutes the power of the piece with fantasy sequences, flashbacks and monotonous scenes of a black and white television show in which deadpan musicians represent some kind of Greek chorus on the events. At times, characters speak directly to the camera and, at one point, the director and his crew are even seen reflected in a mirror. Only the most loyal Ripstein followers will have the patience for such a ponderous approach.