Thursday, September 2, 2010

Acapulco en blanco y negro

Acapulco en el sueño, por Francisco Tario; con fotografías de Lola Alvarez Bravo. Second, facsimile edition. México, D.F.: Centro Cultural Arte Contemporáneo, 1993. Originally published: México, 1951. “La primera editción de este libro acabó de imprimir el día 9 de febrero de 1951 en los talleres de la Imprenta Nuevo Mundo, Comonfort 29-B, México, D.F., con grabados de Martínez y Cruzado y bajo la dirección de Joaquín Díez Canedo.”

Acaulco noir

Acapulco has long been a favorite for filmmakers of both a cine negro and otherwise bent [1]. Indeed, two classics from the noir canon, Out of the Past and The Lady from Shanghai, were filmed at least in part in Acapulco and its surrounding areas [2]. I’ll never tire of seeing Robert Mitchum waiting in that dreary little cantina for Jane Greer to appear, and when the magic moment arrives and she walks in out of the moonlight sun [3] . . . Wow! Though Past was probably only minimally filmed in Acapulco [4], if at all, we hardly notice or care; the film’s Acapulco scenes beguile with an irresistible atmosphere of mildly sinister exoticism and anticipation which floats, gossamer-like in a hothouse of perfumed sensuousness. Little surprise then that at the end of the film Jane wanted to go back and start over.

At any rate, and in similar b&w fashion, presented in a rival medium and possessed of a noir of a different color, is Lola Alvarez Bravo’s classic Acapulco en el Sueño. My limited facility with Spanish precludes my appreciating the poetry and beauty of Francisco Tario’s accompanying text, much less commenting on it. But in any case with books like these it’s really the photography that’s the thing, and what photography!

With its haunting, shades-of-gray images, Sueño is an eclectic, unlikely paean to Acapulco’s epoca de oro -- the pre-spoiled years of the late 1940s when there was an abundance of charm and a minimum of mass tourism. It’s all there in the varying portraits of the beautiful people (in both senses of the term); slyly candid scenes of gringo tourists; fishermen at work; and most of all, vistas of pristine, natural landscapes, capturing the natural beauty of Acapulco in monochromatic splendor. The silkscreen image on the cover of the original 1951 edition was done by the famed Guatemalan painter Carlos Mérida.

See also : Elizabeth Ferrer, Lola Alvarez Bravo, N. Y., Aperture, 2006; Tario al pique.

[1] The redoubtable IMDB also cites such unlikely classics as Treasure of the Sierra Madre and Captain from Castille as deriving at least in part from the Acapulco and its environs.

[2] Past has at least a few scenes which were filmed there, so credited by the aforementioned IMDB.

[3] I always want to say moonlight; it seems more romantic.

[4] Perhaps lacking Past’s poetry and atmosphere, Shanghai nonetheless has an even stronger claim to on-location status, with a significant portion of the middle of the film being comprised of several quintessentially Wellesian scenes set in craggy, windswept cliffs and hills shot at various off-kilter angles.

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