We’ll be marking Día de los Muertos - Mexico’s Day of the Dead - with special screenings of two of the country’s cult classic films: El Mariachi, the influential debut movie from Machete, Sin City and From Dusk Till Dawn director Robert Rodriguez, and arch-surrealist Luis Buñuel’s 1962 classic The Exterminating Angel.
Day of the Dead is a traditional remembrance of lost loved ones which dates back to the pre-Hispanic era. It sounds like a sombre period of mourning, but the reality is entirely more life-affirming. Huge numbers of Mexicans visit the graves of lost family members with all manner of gifts (commonly flowers, candles and drinks) in the belief that the deceased once again have an opportunity to enjoy the pleasures of the mortal world.
Shoreditch’s White Rabbit Studios will be transformed into a vibrant visual feast which pays tribute to one of the world’s most inspiring cultural events with calaca masks (the infamous Mexican skeleton masks, as seen in films such as Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride) provided for everyone in attendance. The Mexican theme continues with some authentic Mexican dishes and drinks, so sit back with some friends and take it easy with a Paloma - the renowned slow-sippin’ drink which is made with el Jimador, Mexico’s best-selling tequila with an inimitable taste which comes direct from the 100% blue agave which it is sourced from.
Robert Rodriguez’s directorial career started at the age of just twenty-three when he made the highly influential El Mariachi on a budget that barely exceeded just $7000. In El Mariachi, drug baron Moco despatches a gang to eliminate the ruthless Azul when he discovers that his enemy is planning a terrible vengeance upon him. The gang, however, confuse Azul with a travelling musician known simply as El Mariachi (easily done, given their black uniforms and guitarist cases - although Azul’s is loaded with a deadly arsenal rather than a simple sixstring) which forces the musician into a desperate fight for survival. Violent shoot-outs ensue as the mariachi tries to flee town (trigger happy he may be, but it seems that Mexicans shoot their foes rather than their tequila).
Much like other indie classics of the Nineties such as Kevin Smith’s Clerks and Christopher Nolan’s Following, the film’s low-budget contributes a certain ramshackle charm and demonstrates why Rodriguez has become one of the film world’s most celebrated cult directors. Set in the Mexican border town of Ciudad Acuña, it’s full of moments of eccentricity and quirky humour that help to distinguish it from similar tales. El Mariachi made Rodriguez’s name and became the first instalment of his famous Mexico trilogy, which was completed by the high profile sequels Desperado and Once Upon A Time In Mexico. This screening offers a rare chance to see the origins of the trilogy up there on the big screen.
One of the most enduring of Buñuel’s films to have been filmed in his adopted homeland of Mexico (his previous film, Viridiana, caused huge controversy in Spain despite winning the Palme d’Or at Cannes), The Exterminating Angel is set during a dinner party in a lavish mansion. Shortly after dinner is prepared, almost all of the servants are mysteriously compelled to flee the house. Soon, the guests find themselves inexplicably unable to leave.
What starts as a comical absurdity soon escalates as their desperation grows. As the basic needs of mankind fall into short supply, the bourgeoisie descend into base-level, animalistic behaviour - a neat encapsulation of how little separates our own society from descending into a savagery caused by the simple desire for survival (although Buñuel would surely have rejected any single interpretation of the film’s message).
So grab a Paloma or two, and sit back and enjoy two of Mexican cinema’s most memorable works. After all, the dead can’t have all of the fun to themselves…
25TH OCTOBER - EXTERMINATING ANGEL
1ST NOVEMBER - EL MARIACHI
THE WHITE RABBIT
471-473 THE ARCHES / DEREHAM PLACE
SHOREDITCH / LONDON / EC2A 3HJ