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Juarez...Baffling Film


Guest obrienmundy
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This morning, I viewed Juarez on TCM. . While there is no doubt in my mind that it was a well-made film, I found it to be very convoluted and hard-to-follow. The performances were good, and the production was ideal, but I had a bit of trouble with the script. Does anyone else feel that it was a confusing film?

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There's an old joke:

 

A Mexican tour guide stopped at a bullfighting ring. He told the group of American tourists, "Bullfighting is the number ONE sport in all of Mexico!" A lady in the group replied, "Ugh! Isn't it REVOLTING?"

 

The tour guide said, "No. Revolting is our number TWO sport!"

 

At the time the movie JUAREZ was made, American audiences may have been more familiar with the history behind the story than people are now, so it COULD come off as confusing to recent viewers.

 

Sepiatone

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The real story itself was confusing. There were always several factions fighting during the 3 or more major revolutions. In the Juarez case, it was France that wanted a Mexican colony, it was also rich land owners who wanted to put a President in office and keep the poor people oppressed for cheap labor, and there were Mexican military men who wanted power. And also, there were big geographical divisions within the country, such as the desert North, the East-Coast Gulf Coast states, the Southern jungle states. Plus, many rich people considered themselves to be European-Spanish and the peasants to be Western Hemisphere Indians.

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>At the time the movie JUAREZ was made, American audiences may have been more familiar with the history behind the story than people are now, so it COULD come off as confusing to recent viewers.

 

I don't recall having much education in school in the 1950s about any of the Mexican revolutions. Since I was a teenager and saw this film on The Late Show, this has been the "official" story of Juarez, as far as I know. I guess I could look it up on Wiki. :)

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I like Juarez a lot, but I agree it can seem a bit convoluted. That may be because it's really mostly about Maximilian and Carlotta, but Paul Muni's wife insisted that the Juarez character's scenes be beefed up. It sort of creates an imbalance.

 

But there are things in Juarez that are really excellent: Bette Davis' mad scene, shouting at Rains and Sondergaard ("YOU BOURGEOIS BONAPARTE!..."); the arrival of Maximilian and Carlotta into Mexico; the scene where Davis is talking about her childhood, and about praying to the Virgin Mary; the execution of Maximilian as "La Paloma" is being sung; and the very final scene of Davis' response, across the ocean. I think this is one of those films where the parts may be greater than the whole.

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One of my favourite moments in Juarez occurs when the mad Carlotta, (Bette Davis) sitting in her chair in Paris, rises from that chair and walks to the window, raises her arm and calls out her husband's name. "Maxel," she says.

 

The scene then dissolves to Maximillian in Mexico nobly walking to his death as he faces a firing squad. Carlotta's scream of "Maxel!" can be briefly heard and, as she does so, Brian Aherne, as Maximillian, momentarily turns his head to the side, almost as if he can hear her.

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>I think this is one of those films where the parts may be greater than the whole.

 

Keep in mind that in this film, John Garfield plays the young hero, Porfirio Diaz, who helped Juarez fight off the French Army in the 1860s.

 

But, in VIVA ZAPATA (1952), the same Porfirio Diaz is much older, and he is the bad Presidente/dictator of Mexico in 1910, and he is played by Fay Roope.

 

Pay attention because we will have two tests on this next week. One a history test, and another a classic movie test. :)

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*The real story itself was confusing. There were always several factions fighting during the 3 or more major revolutions. In the Juarez case, it was France that wanted a Mexican colony, it was also rich land owners who wanted to put a President in office and keep the poor people oppressed for cheap labor, and there were Mexican military men who wanted power.*

 

This was the case in general through the first century or so of Mexican Independence, supposedly finally settled during THE Mexican Revolution of approximately 1910-17. In the case of the period of Ju?rez, et al. it was La Guerra de la Reforma, or War of the Reform. The Reform being the Constitution of 1857, which among other things, curtailed the power of the Catholic Church; Ju?rez had helped in promulgating said Constitution, and had helped in its radicalized tone (the anti-clerical provisions as postulated had originally been MUCH milder than the end result). In effect, the power struggles broke down to "Liberal" or "Federalists, and "Conservatives" or "Monarchists", and had been going on since Independence had been achieved in the early 1820s. The Conservatives, who sided with the Church, didn't want a president at this point, but hoped to legitimized their cause with a European Monarch to rule M?xico as Emperor (the second since Independence). Hence the hapless Hapsburg Maximiliano, duped into thinking the people really wanted him to govern. And unfortunately, his biggest mistake might've been that he did really try to govern for all of M?xico, not just the "haves' or the Monarchists, but hoped to help the plight of the poor masses. Ju?rez, a Zapoteco from Oaxaca state, had been educated as a priest, wherein were sown the seeds of his virulent anti-clerical feelings. Anyway, under the cry of nationalism, he and his troops were able to restore the Republic and drive out the French, whose support had kept Maximiliano propped up on the throne. A confusing, compelling time in Mexican history.

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Hi,

 

An interesting footnote to this film is that Carlotta, even though mentally unbalanced, did denounce Napoleon III, even from The Vatican....

Three years after Maximilian was executed, Prussia defeated Napoleon and he died the next year in Britain.

And so, Carlotta was seemingly avenged..

 

She lived on for 60 more years as a recluse in her native Belgium in a castle there; not quite mad but apparently quite paranoid...

 

Larry

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  • 2 weeks later...

Fred wrote:

>I don't recall having much education in school in the 1950s about any of the Mexican revolutions. Since I was a teenager and saw this film on The Late Show, this has been the "official" story of Juarez, as far as I know. I guess I could look it up on Wiki. :)

 

In the late 20s and the 30s, the tragic love story of Maximilian and Carlotta was pretty well known in the US. My mother was a kid then, and she was into it. Juarez himself was probably much less known in the US.

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