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MGM Studios DVD presents
"That night, Julio and Tenoch consumed alcohol, marijuana, and ecstasy imported from San Francisco, and failed in their dating strategies. They worried this failure would be the blueprint for the rest of the summer."
DVD ReviewIn the summer of 2004, Alfonso Cuarón will be best known in America as the director of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban; the Mexican-born filmmaker is taking over the reins of the blockbuster series from Chris Columbus. Right now, however, he's familiar to film buffs as the man behind two well-received remakes, 1995's The Little Princess and the 1998 update of Great Expectations. He's likely cemented his reputation with his latest film, Y tu mamá también, which was released in Mexico in 2001 and is a strong contender for the 2002 Best Foreign Film Oscar®.
The film plays well enough for U.S. audiences, mixing elements of the road movie, the class struggle in Mexico, and a coming of age story (it's like Stand By Me with sex and a car), but it will probably work best for those familiar enough with the language and the culture to appreciate the subtleties of the issues at hand. Still, the story of Julio (Gael García Bernal) and Tenoch (Diego Luna), two friends from completely different backgrounds—the latter the son of a wealthy family; the former, a member of the middle class—who struggle to maintain their friendship during the summer following their high school graduation, deals with universal themes that transcend cultural boundaries.
Julio and Tenoch are left to their own devices when their girlfriends leave the country for the summer; they spend their time together partying or lazing around the country club to which Tenoch's parents belong. Everything for them becomes a contest, from swimming to masturbation, and after meeting Luisa (Maribel Verdú) at a wedding party, they compete for her, too. The wife of Tenoch's distant cousin, the playful Luisa finds herself drawn to the youthful exuberance of the boys, and when her husband cheats on her, she agrees to go with them on a trip to Heaven's Mouth, a legendary beach. The story follows them on their road trip, tracks the characters as they grow and change, but it's more than a simple tale of summer love—Luisa quizzes the boys about their sexual experiences and their ideas about women, even while she teases them with her own sexuality. The script, from the director and his brother, Carlos Cuarón, handles the graphic material with a casual ease, never tarting it up or pushing it to the level of exploitation.
Whether the three finally sleep together isn't really the point; their sexual maturation is only one part of the story. Luisa has much to teach them about the mystery and possibilities of sex, of course, but a darker undercurrent runs throughout the film—echos of the extreme poverty and unrest in Mexico are constantly flashing past the windows as they drive through the country. Occasionally we hear a narrator pointing out curiosities along the way—there, where a man was killed on his way to work; there, where a poor girl left home at 13 to find work to support her family. The narration serves to highlight a world beyond the comparably trivial concerns of the two youths, even while the differences in their own backgrounds threaten to tear them apart.
The mainstream press has labeled Y tu mamá también an "erotic" film; the big issue with the American release has always been the sexual content. But Cuarón isn't interested in filming glossy, Hollywood sex scenes. His handheld cameras and cinéma vérité shooting style capture the sexual acts in all of their stark reality. Early on, as Tenoch and Julio engage their girlfriends, they act as you'd expect a lustful teen male to do—they race to the finish, concerned only with the endpoint, not the meaning of the act itself. Such realism is rarely seen in American films, which glorify sex, often at the expense of the story.
This little-seen gem faced a lot of obstacles when playing in U.S. theaters—its frank depiction of sexuality proved a sore spot for the MPAA, which threatened an NC-17 rating. Indie distributor IFC Films decided instead to release it unrated, limiting its showings to urban areas and art house theaters. MGM releases it to DVD in both an uncut and an R-rated version (running five minutes shorter). I highly recommend a purchase of the original cut; the subject matter is clearly adult in nature, and if you are going to watch a film that deals upfront with sexual matters, you might as well see it as originally conceived.
Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A
Image Transfer Review: MGM has blessed this film with a very fine anamorphic transfer, and despite the low budget, it looks wonderful. The source material looks very clean, with no marks or lines and only a touch of grain. Colors are saturated and lifelike, and black level is pretty decent as well. Shadow detail is fairly good, but some darker scenes are a bit lacking in fine detail. I noted no aliasing or artifacting, and nothing much in the way of edge enhancement.
Image Transfer Grade: A-
Audio Transfer Review: The original 5.1 Spanish audio track is the only option provided, and it's a good match for the film, but not something that will give your speakers a workout. Dialogue is nicely anchored in the center channel, and mixed to the mains at times for good directional effect. The score is spread nicely into the front mains, though it would feel richer if it was also enhanced by the surrounds. Speaking of, the rears are mostly quiet throughout, meaning this is a fairly front heavy mix overall, but they do occasionally offer nice ambiance, particularly during scenes underwater—the surrounds really work to create accurate atmospheric effects.
Audio Transfer Grade: B
Disc ExtrasAnimated menu with music
Scene Access with 32 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 TV Spots/Teasers
3 Deleted Scenes
1 Feature/Episode commentary by cast members Gael García Bernal, Diego Luna, and Andrés Almeida
Layers Switch: 00h:58m:01s
The 20-minute documentary Behind Your Mother Too is more accessible; it's still in Spanish but has been blessed with English subtitles. Featuring a lot of on-the-set footage with narration from director Alfonso Cuarón, it's an entertaining piece that offers a look behind the scenes but doesn't feature a whole lot in the way of making-of material. Interviews with the cast are also included, but they are typical of many "fluff" featurettes in that they often simply parrot the plot of the movie or pontificate on its themes. Make sure to watch if you want to know how the producers manufactured fake semen for the infamous pool scene.
Three deleted scenes are presented in widescreen and with subtitles; all of them are very brief and would have added little of substance to the plot. More interesting is the short film Me la debes (You Owe Me One), by Y tu mamá también co-writer and brother of the director Carlos Cuarón. It runs 11 minutes, and is an interesting look at the sexual exploits of a particularly active family.
Rounding out the disc is the theatrical trailer and a brief TV spot. Note again that the R-Rated version includes only the trailer (though it does feature an additional full-frame transfer for the feature).
Extras Grade: B-
Final CommentsY tu mamá también is a wonderful film, equal parts road movie, coming of age drama, and social critique. Be warned, depictions of sexuality are quite frank and realistic, and though the film is full of graphic sexual material, it never feels gratuitous or salacious. MGM has done a good job with the DVD, at least in terms of the audio and video quality. Were the commentary subtitled, the extras would be quite satisfying as well. As it is, I'm recommending this one to fans of foreign film on the strength of the feature alone.
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