El Imperio de la Fortuna (1986)

Rating: C-

Dir: Arturo Ripstein
Star: Ernesto Gomez Cruz, Blanca Guerra, Alejandro Parodi, Zaide Silvia Gutiérrez

Courtesy of the 1937 Cinematograph (Animals) Act, the cockfighting which is central here, is likely to incur BBFC wrath – just before they sit down to a nice chicken dinner, no doubt. Hypocrisy aside, the main problem is a shift in focus; the central character is suddenly pushed to one side and becomes unsympathetic. This can work, but his replacement here is not as interesting. A peasant, Dionisio Pinzon (Cruz), gets a job as announcer at a cockfight – yes, I admit we sniggered at lines like “Gentlemen, release your cocks”. He saves one beast from becoming pot pie, and begins a rise and fall that brings wealth, property, and the attentions of a singer, La Caponera (Guerra – the mother in Santa Sangre).

The first half is fascinating, a glimpse into an unknown world, where we, and the innocent Dionisio, learn that anything can be fixed. However, he acquires his mentor’s house, money and woman, and effectively becomes him; the focus then shifts to La Caponera, the film cantering through a good 15 years or so, skipping vast chunks en route. There is a lot of dull poker-playing, and some excruciatingly bad songs, more intolerable than any cockfight. The depressing conclusion was not really a shock (we’re beginning to get the hang of Mexi-cinema) but I hoped for more after the fine beginning.