El río y la muerte (The River and Death). 1955. Mexico. Directed by Luis Buñuel. creenplay by Luis Alcoriza, Buñuel. With Columba Domínguez, Joaquín Cordero, Jaime Fernández, Víctor Parra. In Spanish; English subtitles. 35mm. 91 min.
Buñuel seems to be directly confronting Emilio Fernández, Mexico’s most honored filmmaker and the great poet of the rural peasantry, with this decidedly unsentimental treatment of traditional blood feuds, setting the film firmly in Fernández territory – a remote, whitewashed pueblo, with its inevitable colonial church – and casting both Fernández’s wife (Columba Dominguez) and brother (Jaime Fernández, the Friday of Buñuel’s Robinson Crusoe) as tradition-bound villagers devoted to the generational feud between the pueblo’s two leading families. The voice of reason is Miguel Torruco, who has escaped the village and become a doctor in Mexico City, but while he may have the best arguments, Buñuel’s focus and sympathy seems to lie with the death cultists, who at least have their obsessions to propel them through life.