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Fox Home Entertainment presents
Dust to Dust (Por la libre) (2000)

"You sure made it better, Grandpa."
- Rocco (Osvaldo Benavides)

Review By: Matt Peterson  
Published: February 11, 2004

Stars: Xavier Masse, Osvaldo Benavides, Rodrigo Cachero
Director: Juan Carlos de Llaca

MPAA Rating: R for language, some sexuality and drug use
Run Time: 01h:36m:43s
Release Date: February 03, 2004
UPC: 024543090625
Genre: foreign


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- BB+A D

DVD Review

With Y Tu Mama Tambien and now, Dust to Dust (Por la libre), the road movie seems to be a popular format for the modern Mexican film. The latter is certainly in a different vein from its more successful counterpart, taking a more comedic, lighthearted approach to its somewhat dramatic story elements. Family is central in de Llaca's film, which addresses the complexities of such a unit, and more importantly, of one man.

Rocco (Osvaldo Benavides) is a loner. He drifts along aimlessly with his best friend, smoking pot, checking out girls, and losing trains of thought. His direction is uncertain—he is constantly bogged down by the restraints of family, and the rift between himself and his father. The two are constantly at odds, and Rocco wants a way out. His cousin, Rodrigo (Rodrigo), also gives him trouble, clearly treating him as the lesser relative. At yet another family gathering, commemorating his Grandfather's birthday, the same old behavioral ticks emerge. Siblings are criticized, his father is marrying yet another woman (the ages of which get progressively smaller), and his grandfather is forced to oversee the situation.

All this tension takes its toll, and Grandpa keels over at the dinner table. He is later cremated. In a series of selfish scenes that reminded me of Ozu's tone in Tokyo Story, the family immediately turns their attention to the division of the deceased's wealth, most of which is willed to the most unlikely persons. The parents wheel and deal, trying to get what they feel they deserve. In frustration, Rocco takes the ashes and runs off with his cousin in his newly acquired vintage Mercedes—a post-mortem gift from their grandfather. They're on a mission to Acapulco to scatter his ashes in the ocean, and to simply get away from it all.

Of course, what would Acapulco be without some beautiful women? Rocco meets Maria (played by the stunning Ana de la Regeura), his cousin meets up with his girlfriend, and the four take it to the town, with the golden urn of Grandpa in tow. We even get to see a spirited game of hot potato with Gramps in a lively night club. Strange? Yes. That's not all, though. Before the game is up, startling revelations about grandpa's life emerge, and nothing can ever be the same. In the end, death brings new life.

As I previously hinted, there are few things in this film that were—how should I put it?—lost in translation. Perhaps these are cultural norms in Mexico, but they were lost on me. There is a scene where Rocco is feeling deprived of his manhood. In order to conjure some of that magic, he eats a fingerful of Grandpa's ashes, approaching some kind of voodoo ritual for extracting his "mojo." I'm pretty sure this was supposed to be a comedic moment, but it seemed strangely serious…. Finally, if you thought Luke kissing his then-unknown sister Leia in The Empire Strikes Back was bad, wait until you see what happens here. It should be enough to drive one character into therapy, but for some reason, it does not faze him.

Overall, this is a fun romp that has some impressive photography. Camera angles and editing are unique, pumping up the film's style. Performances are solid across the board, with Osvaldo Benavides emoting the right mix of naïveté and modern teen-induced depression. The plot is engaging enough to keep one interested for its standard comedic running time, but the ending leaves a lot of loose ends, and tends to want to avoid the conflict much of the film spent time setting up. Perhaps there is less concern for giving audiences a clean break, opting for a more realistic depiction of family life—the ends of which are rarely tied.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Part of Fox's Cinema Latino line, we are treated to a very good anamorphic 1.85:1 transfer. Contrast and color saturation are good, and some digital noise is seen now and then, with minor edge enhancement at certain points. The biggest picture flaw I noticed was the presence of some grain and quite a few flecks—clearly from the source print.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
5.1
Spanishno


Audio Transfer Review: The Spanish Dolby 5.1 track is one of the most engaging tracks I have ever heard for a comedy. The credit sequence, which takes place underwater, immerses the viewer in 360 degrees of aural bliss. Smooth directional panning abounds, and the music is mixed into all the channels, creating a lively experience. For the rest of the film, the mix is rather front centered, but like the credits, music and ambiance appear now and then, showcasing the mix's immersive quality. Dynamic range is good. At times, sound effects can sound hollow and tinny, resulting from bad on-set recording.

Audio Transfer Grade: A

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring Lucia, Lucia, Cinema Latino
Packaging: Keep Case
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Aside from trailers for two other films, there are no extras on this release, unless you consider interactive menus to be a breathtaking bonus.

Extras Grade: D

 

Final Comments

A fun comedy that has heart, substance, and some story twists that would make Freud giggle with glee, Dust to Dust (Por la libre) is recommended to those interested in Latino cinema, or a solid, youthful comedic drama.

 


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