DOC NYC ’11: Perdida
(trailer here), which screens this Sunday as part of the 2011 DOC NYC.
At one point, the Calderóns were the leading exhibitors of Mexican films on either side of the border, with a chain of grand movie palaces that stretched up to El Paso. Unfortunately, they were forced to sell their theaters to a sketchy consortium under circumstances that remain murky. They still had their production arm though.
The Calderóns produced a wide array of films, including prestige pictures starring Ricardo Montalban, who had a very complicated relationship with the family. However, these always lost money. This was not the case with the “ficheras” for which their production house became notorious. Always set in nightclubs so they could feature plenty of naked dancing girls and groovy music, the fincheras were genuine exploitation films that look only slightly awesome based on the clips shrewdly sampled in Perdida.
Yet, their biggest hits were probably the early films starring Santo the wrestler, who would popularize Lucha Libre wrestling around the world. As if that were not cool enough, they were also responsible for Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, the MST3K staple co-starring a young Pia Zadora. If this does not constitute major cinema history, than nothing does.
Obviously, any documentary featuring Santa throwing down against Dropo, the Martian village idiot, has considerable entertainment value. However, Besné’s attempts to come to grips with her family’s legacy are also quite engaging. Indeed, there is even a mysterious film vault that will eventually be opened.
American Grindhouse, it is sweeter and gentler, despite the thematic similarities (and not infrequent nudity) of the films documented. A lovely and loony film, Perdida is one of the highlights of this year’s DOC NYC. Affectionately recommended, it screens this coming Sunday (11/6) at the IFC Center.