Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Stoker of Delirium (orig. Fogonero del Delirium) [2011]

MPAA (UR would be R)  Fr. Dennis (4 Stars)

IMDb listing
FICG.mx listing

Official Site

Alejandro Colunga: Stoker of Delirium (orig. Alejandro Colunga: Fogonero del Delirium) [2011] (directed and cowritten by Gustavo Domínguez along with Jorge de la Cueva based on the original script of Dante Medina) is a feature length (90 min) documentary piece from Mexico that played recently at the 30th Chicago Latino Film Festival.

Commissioned originally by the University of Guadalajara and a Mexican National Fund for the Promotion of Fine Arts, it is about the life and art of Guadalajara native Alejandro Colunga one of Mexico's most influential and interesting contemporary artists. 

For those who like surrealist art, the documentary itself is a delight.  For example, Colunga's childhood is presented through surrealist imagery inspired by his own art, employing both animation and masked and costumed actors in the process. 

The result is magical, at times somewhat controversial, but certainly insightful, getting to the playful and iconoclastic spirit of the artist underneath the work.  Thus we see masked mariachis playing their instruments in a windswept graveyard following Colunga's father's death when the artist was young.

To most readers of my blog, the most controversial scene in the film for some would be that of the 6-8 year old Colunga's experience of the the Celebration of the Mass: The Virgin Mary and many of the Saints turn into trapeze artists and other carnival characters during the Consecration.  Offensive?  Could be.  But put yourselves back into the mind of a ten year old and in the scene the young Colunga _isn't_ portrayed as laughing at the Mass or the Angels and the Saints but rather IN AWE OF IT ALL.  (I myself remember being in AWE of all the images -- the Angels, the Saints, the images of Jesus struggling on his way to Calvary -- all about St. Procopius Church back in Chicago where we'd go to Czech Mass whenever my grandmother (who didn't speak a word of English) was with us.  Priest's and choir's voices would echo through the Church anyway, so I couldn't understand a word ... but there was _plenty_ to look at, all around.  So _honestly_ I can relate to the image in the film ...

Throughout the film, various family members of Colunga, friends, patrons as well as Colunga himself were interviewed to give insight to the various stages of his life.  (Interestingly, he studied architecture, mathematics and other more technical fields in his life before entering into the field of art which he claimed he "didn't study at all" ;-). He also spent a brief period in the 1960s as part of a Guadalajara rock band ;-) before returning back to painting and handicraft/sculpture. 

So who is he then?  One would certainly recognize him as a "great" thoughtful, iconoclastic/playful artist of today for whom Mexican folk-flavored surrealism would certainly be an _ideal_ form of expression. 

The film is certainly not for all, but for those who do love art, especially contemporary art and the freedom that it often expresses, this film will probably be for you. 

The film also serves the purpose of reminding viewers (and indeed the world) that Mexico does have truly rich tradition in art and one that did not simply begin and end with Diego Rivera and Frida and the "Muralists" of the 1920s-40s. There are some GREAT artists like Alejandro Colunga living and producing some very insightful and often quite funny / entertaining contemporary art right now.

In any case, I found this to be a great and fun film!

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