The work of Mexican director Roberto Gavaldón spans the cultural divide at the center of Mexican national cinema, embracing both rural sagas of peasant life (the genre made internationally famous by Gavaldón’s contemporary, Emilio Fernández) and urban dramas centered on moneyed professionals (as in the cosmopolitan work of Julio Bracho). But whether they wear a sombrero (like Pedro Armendáríz in Rosauro Castro) or a fedora (like Arturo de Córdova in En la palma de tu mano), Gavaldón’s protagonists are marked by ungovernable passions and gnawing self-doubt, as they move through an unstable world toward a frequently unkind fate.
A brilliant technician, Gavaldón developed a distinctive visual style—based on bold back-lighting and intricately subdivided spaces—that suggests the film noir stylings of Hollywood directors like Anthony Mann and Joseph H. Lewis. With the assistance of such regular collaborators as the cinematographer Alex Phillips, the writer and political activist José Revueltas, and the composer Raúl Lavista, Gavaldón created a dense and coherent body of work that is only now being rediscovered, thanks largely to the ongoing restoration work of Mexico’s two major archives, the Cineteca Nacional and the Filmoteca de la UNAM, to whom we are grateful for making this program possible.
Organized by Dave Kehr, Curator, Department of Film. Thanks to Daniela Michel and Chloe Roddick, Morelia International Film Festival; Viviana Garcia Besne, Permanencia Voluntaria; Raul de Anda, Cine Visión S.A; the Cineteca Nacional, the Filmoteca de la UNAM, Fundación Televisa, UCLA Film and Television Archive; Olympusat.