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May 20, 2007

Solo con Tu Pareja

solo con tu pareja.jpg

Alfonso Cuaron - 1991
Criterion Collection Region 1 DVD

It is a testament to Alfonso Cuaron's critical and commercial acclaim that his debut feature has received a belated release in the United States. Those interested in Cuaron's career will be interested to know that Solo con Tu Pareja was co-written by brother and frequent collaborator Carlos Cuaron, and that the cinematography is by the esteemed Emmanual Lubezki. While the sex and social criticism make the film seems closest to Y Tu Mama Tambien, Solo con Tu Pareja is lighter and more optimistic.

Beginning with an e. e. cumming's poem about a man who loves all kinds of women, except those that are green, Cuaron presents a contemporary (1991) Mexican lover, a writer of advertisements, whose insincerity get him into trouble. Tomas Tomas is Cuaron's version of Don Juan, or Don Giovanni as the Mozart heavy soundtrack would indicate. Unable to come up with a new ad campaign for a brand of peppers, Tomas fakes a continual fever by warming a thermometer with a light bulb. Persuaded by his doctor, and neighbor, to get an exam, Tomas also allows himself to get tested for AIDs. That night, Tomas finds himself engaged in simulaneous affairs with the nurse he just met, and his female boss at the ad agency. The nurse finds out by chance what had happened and deliberately marks Tomas' AIDs test as positive. And yes, this is a comedy, and yes, it is funny.

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In one of the DVD supplements, Alfonso Cuaron discusses being influenced by Ernst Lubitsch and Blake Edwards. Whatever Lubitsch touch is found in Cuaron might be found in the characters attempting to hide relationships from each other. Some of the biggest laughs are to be found in gags that would be in bad taste to describe, but are no more audacious than the concentration camp humor in To Be or Not To Be. The pratfalls more easily recall Blake Edwards' work with Peter Sellers. When Tomas Tomas is caught nude in public, which occurs twice, one might recall the humiliation of Sellers and Elke Sommer in A Shot in the Dark. When Tomas Tomas runs up, down and around between nurse Silvia Silva and boss Gloria Gold (the names in this film are often alliterative), I thought of Dudley Moore in Edwards' Mickey and Maude.

One name surprisingly not mentioned in Billy Wilder. One of the big scenes involves characters attempting to commit suicide on New Year's Eve, head stuck in an oven. The difference between The Apartment and Solo con Tu Pareja is that sticking your head in a microwave oven is simultaneously more pathetic, and more hilarious because of its extreme desperation. That Tomas Tomas works in advertising like Jack Lemmon in The Apartment also makes the similarities seem less coincidental. Wilder was also known for his scabrous humor and gags of dubious taste. Also, like Wilder, Cuaron pokes fun at contemporary life and finds humor in topical subject matter.

Perhaps Cuaron is genuinely unaware of the similarities he shares with Billy Wilder. At the very least, with Solo con Tu Pereja, we have a more complete look at a filmmaker who before making Children of Men began with the story of a man frequently acting like a child.

Posted by peter at May 20, 2007 08:34 PM