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Y Tu Mama Tambien and daring in the way his images allude to the paradoxical realities of vastly different Mexicos. Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki’s camera wanders from the main characters \(whose talk never strays far from an extended sesfaces and gestures of peasants raising money for the beauty queen of their district, or a wizened old woman dancing to the radio in the kitchen of a roadside dive. The threesome breeze through roadblocks where other, darker-skinned Mexicans are searched; they pass shining police vehicles as shinyuniformed police with shiny weapons round up migrant workers; they see handmade crosses mounted on the rocky road-banks, memorials to the catastrophes of overcrowded buses. Voiceover is an all-or-nothing tactic, and while this voice occasionally adds shading where a simple image could not, on the whole we’re better off without it. Too much of what the voiceover really has to say is already there, gliding past Lubezki’s roving lens. Akey to getting the tone of the film right is the relationship between Julio and Tenoch. It’s easy to forget that these two are performing, so seamless is their interaction, and it’s not surprising to learn that Garcia Bernal and Luna have known each other since infancy. The boys are shallow and cynical and slaves to their hormones, but they delight in their wits and guard the secrets of each other’s weakness. Their banter is a rich, frenetic slang sprinkled with English phrases cribbed from movies and television. This is a generation that takes its cues from the American cultural empire, and one that has no illusion that the future will bring anything but more of the same. Traveling through the Mexican hinterland, they know that they are on the winning side of an unbalanced equation, but they’re not disposed to think deeply on it. Instead they count bodyguards at the society wedding and laugh at the suggestion that Tenoch’s father might be other than corrupt. They treat the poor with the gingerly respect we afford an unfamiliar, unexpected creature. But to return to the sex. There’s no pleasure in harping on the old American-versus-foreign film distinctions when it comes to onscreen intercourse,but there is a truth to the sex in Tu Mama that a thousand American Pies cannot achieve. It’s not that Americans aren’t obsessed with youthful sexlord knows it fuels two-thirds of our economy, despite the moral matrimonial edicts from Washingtonwe just don’t do it right in the movies. We’re old pros at appropriating foreign cuisine, but the complex recipe of awkwardness, avidity, thrill, embarrassment, sincerity, and self-centeredness that is the essence of sex at that age continues to elude us. Larry Clark’s Bully made an attempt last year, but rubbed its unconvincing rawness in our faces until the whole movie felt like an irrelevant harangue. In Tit Mama, the sex is inept, unconsidered, and self-serving, but joyous, too. It is everything a censor should object to, because it is painfully familiar, and its consequences remain unclear. By the end of the trip, the countryside, the sea, and their own overheated passions have suffused Luisa and the boys. The lovemaking takes on tenderness, patience, and a twist that, in retrospect, seems inevitable \(although that didn’t stop the man sitting next to me But all the intimacy is ultimately too much for Tenoch and Julio. CuarOn takes us down several octaves for the final note, which is fine, and does a little retroactive trimming of a loose plot thread, which is unfortunate. The paradoxes and vitality of this Mexico are as much a part of the story as anything else, and the movie is strongest when it mirrors this messiness. A sojourner and soul searcher from the Old World, Luisa tells the boys, “You are so lucky to live in a country as alive as Mexico.” Luckier every day, the movie reminds us, as more and more of what is unique to that life is drained away. Maybe the boys get the message, maybe they don’t. As anyone who has ever grown up knows, coming-of-age doesn’t necessarily mean getting it right. Sometimes it just means getting on with it. Jesse Lichtenstein has worked in movie production and written about online film for The New Republic. 4/26/02 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 23