Arturo Ripstein reinvented Mexican melodrama for the digital age with his film “Así es la Vida” [Eng. Title: Such is Life]. It is also a modern retelling of the Roman tragedy by Seneca ‘Medea‘, which itself is based on the even ancient Greek myth of Medea and Jason. Ripstein’s version might not have managed to reach the poetic heights of Pier Paolo Pasolini’s earlier interpretation, but it is still a very well made film, uniquely Mexican in flavour and application.
Julia’s world is shattered when husband Nicolás, a second rate boxer, abandons her and their two children for the landlord’s teenage daughter Raquel. Her situation worsens to utter despair when the landlord nicknamed ‘the Pig’ (la Marrana) gives her an eviction notice, so that she could never pose a threat to his daughter who is about to marry Nicolás. She decides to seek retribution in the most shocking manner, “this will ensure he too experiences the utter loss I feel”. Nicolás is portrayed as a spineless git, espousing machismo in a sexual sense, but lacking in integrity and all other equally ‘masculine’ faculties – we don’t see the heroic Jason in this film, just the wronged Medea.
The film is set in a cramped tenement block somewhere in Mexico city, which was one of the reasons for Sr. Ripstein opting to shoot it on DV as opposed to film. He also states in the interview (among the DVD extras) the opportunity this presented to combine and experiment with different media – like in the scene above where the presence of the Mariachi in Julia’s living room appears to distract the newsreader in the television set. In some scenes the Mariachi appear directly on TV, singing their songs to highlight a relevant scene – just as in old theatre, only with added technology.
There are other hilarious techniques employed like the director/camera actually interfering in the scene itself, some of which work well. The weakest point of the entire film however has to be the final scene where the brevity of the calamitous situation is lost due to some poor shot selection and the acting by the Nicolás character. But the actress playing Julia, Arcelia Ramírez gives an excellent interpretation of her character. I thoroughly enjoyed the screenplay and soundtrack – this is one of the best Arturo Ripstein films I’ve seen to date, and therefore, Recommended Viewing..!