Production still compliments of Mill Valley Film Festival
Alfonso Cuaron with actress Yalitza Aparicio
It is difficult to describe the number of ways that writer-director Alfonso Cuaron’s semi-biographical ROMA represents an Ichthian leap in cinema. There are no special effects to speak of, no costumes except at a New Year’s Eve party cum fire. To compare the film with the level of change that Italian Neorealism presented in the middle of the last century seems strident, yet true. Equally valid is the sense that this film represents the 7th Art at its best in both the creative and technical expression of cinema. There is not a super hero among them — but a sense of magic at the level of Murakami’s Wind Up Bird Chronicle or Hayao Miyazaki’s Howl’s Moving Castle. It is a universal film from the soul of a Spanish master.
Written by a man, ROMA is defined by the relationships between three women and their children. There is little or no chatter—The movements, expressions and geography are left to tell the tale. The women are of three generations one an elderly woman sharing a home with her daughter and grandchildren. The daughter is approaching middle age, brilliant in her own right, and a mother of three. The daughter is also a wife, left distraught by a middle class doctor-husband who has gone cad and ludicrous. Above all other characters rises their Indio maid/nannie, Cleo. Kept company by her roommate, Cleo transcends everything poverty and servitude. If the Virgin of Guadalupe had corporal form, Cuaron proves it would be that of the actress Yalitza Aparicio whilst playing Cleo, during the turmoil of change in the cross cultural class and gender politics of 1970s Mexico.
The writing of Roma itself leaps across any venial representations or stereotypes. Swaddled in black and white footage, in a giant 65 mm frame, with layered visual symbolism, ROMA is a breath taking journey. In a season competing with the best Marvel films yet made, and a year of the too close to call superior performances by women actors—What might have been a long shot, ROMA is brought by Netflix, sans color but luminous, decked with subtitles, and surpasses all as it flies over the moon.
Added to the visuals ROMA’s sound is extraordinary. Having seen the film at the Dolby Lab Screening Room (San Francisco) with echo-locating sound technology—the viewer becomes an adroit listener as though sharing a room with the characters. Voices move from the right, left or seemingly ahead of of the viewer. Fair warning, the subsequent screening of other movies may leave you pining for that sensation of being in the midst of the action. You will crave auditory immersion in other films, less technically adroit, long after seeing ROMA.
Twenty is the number of films I've seen since screening ROMA this past October, 2018. Images continue to drift back to me and make me sigh—when I see a bird fly, a dog bark, or a child cry. There is a purgatory of beauty whipped with pain which is the home where certain souls live. Like birth and death — ROMA closes a circle of which the viewer is unaware of being open until the break is sealed. That new poetic mobius loop, twisted between life and death, catapults ROMA into the realm of bioethics.
Cuaron, Alfonso ROMA https://www.imdb.com/title/tt6155172/?ref_=nv_sr_1
Miyazaki, Hayao HOWL’s MOVING CASTLE https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0347149/