make lemonade! If life gives you lemons . his vow of celibacy by beginning an affair with Amelia, a seemingly devout parishioner who had been dating the journalist before he publicized the Church’s dirty dealings. Amaro’s good looks and Amelia’s religiosity lead to a relationship whose passion is sometimes acted out in the confessional. \(They steal their first kiss in front of a statue of the Virgin Mary. “You’re lovelier than the Virgin herself,” Amaro later tells his young lover, as he covers her naked body in he pregnant, he refuses to resign his priesthood, hoping to forestall problems by paying for a clandestine abortion. Instead, she hemorrhages uncontrollably and dies as Amaro tries to take her to a hospital. By the end of the film, the no longer idealistic young man is all steely resolve as he papers over his hypocrisy and presides over his lover’s funeral. Meanwhile, his gullible parishioners remain convinced that Amelia was carrying the journalist’s baby. Froni the opening sequence to the denouement, the cinematic version of Padre Amaro bears little resemblance to the original novel. While Eca went to great lengths to portray a priest who exploits his faith and his parishioners’ trust as he profits from ill-gotten gains, Carrera and Lefiero create a more sympathetic character ably realized by Garcia Bernal; their Padre Amaro is caught in a web not entirely of his own design. He is as much a victim of the Church’s unbending rules as he is of his own unethical choices. And yet it is striking to see how strongly issues raised in nineteenth-century Portugal resonate for twenty-first century Mexico. Both the novel and the film address the distance between the way the Church wants people to practice their faith and how they observe their spiritual obligations. Neither the senior parish priest, Padre Amaro observes their vows of chastity. Long before his affair with Amelia, when Amaro first meets his fellow priests, he argues that the Church could improve priestly life by permitting marriage. His colleagues rebuff him, saying that the Church will never allow priests to marry. \(Rome will have a Mexican Pope before it embarks on Perhaps it is that feeling of powerlessness in the face of Catholic tradition that Carrera and Lenero try so desperately to illuminate. Unfortunately, despite strong performances from the cast, their efforts are ultimately undermined by the film’s emotion-provoking rhetoric. Carrera and Lefiero may have succeeded in angering the Father Julians of the world, but in failing to examine the gray areas of Mexican religiosity they frittered away their the chance to create a film that is both profound and truly thought-provoking. Patrick Timmons is a history doctoral candi date at UT-Austin where he studies the death penalty in nineteenth-century Mexico. $32 for the first gift, $27 for each additional gift. HAPPY HOLIDAYS FROM Texas Observer Cartoon by Penny Van Horn May we all get what we deserve. If you know someone who ought to have The Texas Observer, fill out and return the special gift subscription card in this issue. Or go to our website, www.texasobserver.org , or call 800-939-6620. 12/20/02 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 29
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