Evangelina Sosa, Leticia Huijara, others in “La Ley de Herodes” [1999 Mexico]

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Luis Estrada broke new ground when he made the brilliant Mexican classic, “La Ley de Herodes” [Eng. title: Herod’s Law]. It is also one of my favourite Mexican mainstream films of all time. While most Latin Americans (and certainly from many developing countries) will find this a wry depiction of their own reality, as a self-centred foreigner, I unashamedly rejoice in the film’s simplicity, craftsmanship, and hilarious sense of humour – it is pure old-fashioned cinema, and political satire at its very best.

Every aspect of this film production has been well thought and executed. Starting from the art direction and set design – I doubt if it could ever be bettered, or even needs to be. We are transported to that god-forsaken mid-twentieth century pueblo so convincingly that you could almost smell the air the characters breathe. The cinematography adds a period feel with its use of duotones, and while they tend to be generally overused elsewhere, it works exceedingly well here. I hate repeating myself, but the direction (and editing), for want of a better word is simply brilliant in the way Estrada has timed every take to its perfection, every scene flows naturally, and you don’t miss a thing that he’s trying to tell us. The humour is not just in the gags (as funny as they are), but also in the way the scenes are shot – you’ll know what I mean when you watch it for yourself. On top of this, the actors are in their element – one couldn’t think of a choice better than Damián Alcázar for the main role, and even the minor characters are played exceptionally well, notably Isela Vega and the reliable Pedro Armendáriz Jr. This film should be seen by the widest audience possible, particularly in countries where the system works largely for the privileged and lucky few. Highly Recommended Viewing..!

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Juan Vargas, a practical nobody save his long standing membership with the ruling party, is thrust the Mayorship of an obscure and troubled village – the previous Mayor was lynched by its village folk, and expendable that he is, supposed to be a temporary replacement until the forthcoming elections. But Vargas tries to take the job seriously, and that is when he realises that the only way he could get things done is by bending the rules. When he asks the governor for more funds, he is thrown a copy of the constitution and a pistol. With this, he is asked to maintain law and order and generate funds for his beleaguered municipality. And boy does he succeed…



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