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¡AI! Viva Zapata panned

18 September 2009

In a melodramatic scene based on a generally discounted legend, angry young peasant Emiliano Zapata confronts dictator Porfirio Díaz in Mexico’s National Palace. The young Marlon Brando plays Zapata, which is a problem mainly because the young Marlon Brando could only play Marlon Brando. They’ve taped his eyelids up in a bizarre attempt to make him look like an indigenous Mexican, but he just looks like Marlon Brando with his eyelids taped up. In a few scenes, he attempts a Mexican accent, but he just sounds like Marlon Brando doing a half-hearted impression of Speedy Gonzales. Incidentally, the real Zapata was renowned for his high-pitched, delicate voice.


English film critic Alex von Tunzelmann, on Elia Kazan’s 1952 mish-mash of Mexican history, Viva Zapata! John Steinbeck was the screenwriter, proving something. That even Nobel-prize winners can screw up? That Mexican history is best written by obscure eccentrics?

Read the whole review: OUCH!

One Comment leave one →
  1. 18 September 2009 9:29 pm

    Former communist Elia Kazan directed Viva Zapata! shortly before he began informing for the House Un-American Activities Committee. Perhaps as a result, the film is an odd mixture of eulogy to a radical left-wing revolutionary, and conspicuous pro-American propaganda. When rebel figurehead Francisco Madero is in exile in Texas, the Zapatistas chat about how wonderful the USA is: “Up there they protect political refugees! Up there they’re a democracy! Up there they have a president, but he governs with the consent of the people!”

    “That Speedy Gonzáles, he like everybody seester Carmela!”

    Honestly, I think Speedy was the less stereotyped than these camp-esinos. For one thing, he routinely got past that all-Amurrican Sylvester gato. (A metaphor for La Migra, perhaps?)

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