24 April 2009

The Decade List: Y tu mamá también (2001)

Y tu mamá también - dir. Alfonso Cuarón

It took me a while to really separate my feelings for Y tu mamá también and my feelings for the people who held the film in such esteem. While my experience may be a singular one, I think anyone around my age, entering their first year as an undergrad around the time the film's popularity hit its peak, probably grappled with the same confrontation. Let me take you back to the fall of 2002. Your average dorm-living stubborn liberal arts college student couldn't resist placing Y tu mamá también right next to Requiem for a Dream, Amélie (or Le Fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain if they were really bratty) and Donnie Darko on their Friendster profile, all of which intended to represent their "advanced" taste in cinema (it's also likely that The Perks of Being a Wallflower was mentioned as their favorite book). Sometimes the films' appeal split down the middle, with Y tu mamá también and Amélie in one corner, Requiem for a Dream and Donnie Darko in the other. However, if you really wanted to prove that your "advanced" taste was broad, all four was the way to go.

The near universal admiration for these films eventually lead to dissonance. Always concerned with going against the grain, the college student a notch snobbier than the ones who passed these DVDs around their dorm floor resisted their allure and commenced their backlash. Although, it's very likely that this breed of college student liked all four before they realized they weren't special for doing so. Varying arguments against these films surfaced, and the most common concerning Y tu mamá también likened it to American Pie, an "untouchable" in the world of the liberal-minded student. American Pie was yielded to the football-loving, party school kids, not for the "advanced" photo students with a minor in world religions. So this comparison was especially threatening. I mean, there are fart jokes in Y tu mamá también.

Y tu mamá también may not be the most exemplary case for the ubiquitously incorrect correlation between the work of art and its subject, but it certainly aided my understanding of this separation. The people who made the association between Y tu mamá también and American Pie committed the moral sin of assuming a film about people who exhibit juvenile behavior must therefore be as callow as the characters contained within it. Many of the people who paraded their love for Y tu mamá también perpetrated the same miscorrelation. This doesn't pertain to everyone, of course, but it's was hard to avoid hearing about how "sexy" the film was. Though I realize sex appeal lies in the eye of the beholder, the people who were raving about the film's unbridled sexual heat must have overlooked the fact that most of the sex scenes resulted in one of the boys prematurely ejaculating after fumbling around Luisa's body. I'm not making claims against those of you who felt the temperature rise while watching it, but when every mention of Y tu mamá también was followed by some declaration of its eroticism, the question arises as to whether the people saying these things are feeling the heat from the idea of what's happening or are just used to clumsy sexual encounters. That Maribel Verdú, Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna are quite good looking just made the matter more deceptive. Of course, all the above statements are retracted if they were only referring to the final ménage à trois, where Cuarón leaves the deed itself up to the viewer's imagination.

Truly, Y tu mamá también has a lot more going on than Amélie, Requiem for a Dream and Donnie Darko, three films whose visual lure concealed their simplistic (or perhaps hollow) core. I'm not going to pretend that I'm privy to the sociopolitical climate of Mexico that shapes the film or that I'm not vaguely alluding to myself when I mentioned the snobbier breed of college student. However, Y tu mamá también will always remain a significant part of my development of understanding film and my relationship to it. It may be an impossible task to separate personal feelings toward something and its common perception among the public, but awareness of this inability is a step in the right direction.

With: Diego Luna, Gael García Bernal, Maribel Verdú, Daniel Giménez Cacho, Andrés Almeida, Diana Bracho, Emilio Echevarría
Screenplay: Alfonso Cuarón, Carlos Cuarón
Cinematography: Emmanuel Lubezki
Country of Origin: Mexico
US Distributor: IFC Films/MGM

Premiere: 8 June 2001 (Mexico)
US Premiere: 6 October 2001 (New York Film Festival)

Awards: Best Foreign Film (Independent Spirit Awards); Best Screenplay, Marcello Mastroianni Award for Best Young Actor - Gael García Bernal, Diego Luna (Venice Film Festival)

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