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Reviews for January 20th, 2016

Bleak Streat

Directed by Arturo Ripstein

      Adela (Patricia Reyes Spíndola) and Dora (Nora Velazquez), work as prostitutes in Mexico City who desperately need to make more money when their business gets slow. Their family members don't provide an income----Adela forces her mother to beg on the streets while Dora's deadbeat, cross-dressing husband, Max (Alejandro Suarez) is going through a sexual identity crisis. They hatch a scheme to rob their clients by knocking them out with eye drops, but the scheme doesn't quite go as planned when they accidentally commit murder because they used the same dosage of eye-drops on masked midget twin wrestlers, Alejandro (Juan Francisco Longoria) and Alberto (Guillermo López).

      Beautifully shot with natural acting by everyone on screen, Bleak Street is the kind of film that's difficult to put into a box or compare it to other films. Screenwriter Paz Alicia Garciadiego combines tragedy with a sprinkly of off-beat, dark humor that would have felt uneven were it less sensitively written. Comedy, after all, is most often derived from tragedy (just ask Charlie Chaplin). Even though the plot does involve a crime committed, the thrills or suspense aren't very palpable; it's more of a slow-burn that captivates your attention with its humanism. The slow pace might take you a little time to get used to, but even when you think you might become bored, there's always the exquisite black-and-white cinematography to help your eyes become transfixed onto the screen from start to finish.

      None of the characters are particularly likable; they're deeply flawed human beings which makes them all the more interesting. Observing them feels kind of like watching a car crash on the side of the highway----you can't help but look even if you don't really want to. What's refreshing about Bleak Street fundamentally is that it's far from anything you'll see in Hollywood these days: it's unflinching in how it depicts the dark side of human nature without sugar-coating anything, and it's not afraid to make you feel a bit sad. If you come out of Bleak Street stating that it made you feel depressed, to that I ask, "So what?" Some of the best films of all-time (i.e. Bicycle Thieves) are depressing. At least you can say that it actually made you feel something which because that alone is quite a rare feat these days.

Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Released by Leisure Time Features.
Opens at Film Forum.

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