Five years separate the shock Gravity splendid Roma and everything suggests that Alfonso Cuarón has radically changed scale, subject and country: this is his first film in Mexico since Y Tu Mama también, and a family chronicle of autobiographical inspiration, after the romantic solitary odyssey in the space of the astronaut in perdition. We postulate a modest form, or at least classic, with actors mostly non-professional, succeeding the prototype at zero gravity shot in a Light Box designed for filming with one of the stars most bankable from Hollywood, Sandra Bullock. It is also a film distributed by Netflix and therefore a priori thought for a domestic vision after the distributed 3D superproduction and Atmos, technologies intended to rally the public in the best equipped rooms.

Employer's Giron. Yet both films are closely related and complementary. In Gravity, the filmmaker captured the internalized sadness of a Kammerspiel in the chaos of the axis of a dysfunctional orbital station. Here he relies on the routine activity of a sans-grade, benevolent domestic ghost in the heart of a villa in Roma – neighborhood middle class Mexico City – trotting along the same fast pace between buckets of soapy water and the landslides of history. From one to the other of these beautiful portraits of women, Cuarón shows the same masterful ability to imagine the volumetry of the experience that is always measured and experienced on the fine line between the innocuous and the huge, the almost evanescent nothing of pleasures and the ferocious tragedy of abandonment, the grub of daily life and the magma without the outline of existence. Receiving the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival in September, the filmmaker dedicated the award (as is the film, for that matter) to "Liba" the servant who serves as a model for the Cleo of fiction. Cuarón was born, raised and studied in Mexico (philosophy and then cinema), his father was a prominent scientist specialized in nuclear physics. His family had the means to have at his service 24 hours a day house staff mostly recruited from the rural poor, as in Roma where domesticity alternates between Spanish and Mixtec, the native language of the state of Oaxaca, in the south of the country.

From morning till night, Cleo gets busy with another employee, Adela, so that the family – the parents, four children, the grandmother and the dog – feel (or forget?) All the ease of her condition: he must wake the kids, prepare and serve meals, do the dishes, laundry, cleaning, shopping, bring and pick up children at school, serve as an aperitif, clean the dog shit strewn the garage, look good in all circumstances, in a somewhat zinzin patronal bosom, which welcomes him with the same warmth and the same statutory distance that one finds in the Proustian way of evoking Francoise in the research. The ancillary chronicle thus seems to be written in the idealized language of a class understanding, erasing by benevolence and general goodness any trace of iniquity or resentment. Cleo expresses himself seldom, claims nothing, and his devotion seems to flow naturally from a condition of inferior, which would have found there a point of servile stability.

But the master of the house, a doctor still on a business trip, ends up no longer returning at all, and his wife, Sofia, finds herself raising unruly children who do not understand the prolonged absence of the head of the family. Cleo becomes pregnant after meeting a martial-art-loving young man who also vanishes when she tells him about his condition. The inexorable rise of the waters of a disorder, all the more devastating as it seems to overwhelm the euphoric and iridescent surface of a world depicted as a golden age, carries the film always a little further from the common geography social dramas and other historical frescoes, which he uses, however, the dynamics of stories and melo drama. This is obviously due to the imposition of a style that is never forgotten and that makes each plan a new graphic and emotional stasis.

Squadrons. Cuarón said that he never gave the script to the actors to read and that he forced himself never to use subjective plans. So that the impression of freedom and life that unfolds in the sequence shots in lateral and panoramic shots makes indiscernible part of the crazy control and the risky game of letting go. The violence of the repression of the student demonstrations of 1971, demanding more democracy and transparency, mate in the blood (more than a hundred deaths) by the squadrons of the "Halcones", paramilitary militia formed by the CIA, arises in the film like a lapidary note at the bottom of the page, drastically destroying the beautiful prose from which it proceeds.

Paternalistic pretense and the wickedness of relationships within a society based on principles of predation and abuse are all the more marked in that they were first masked, or euphemised. Roma allows Cuarón, with the prism of a film he has written, shot, photographed, mounted himself in a sort of total artistic gesture, to oppose to the tangible elements of a morally depraved society the superior humanity of Cleo , his innocence almost sleepwalking. The social wounds impossible to heal are thus transmuted, the time of the film, in unfocused glare of digital altarpiece.

Didier Péron

Roma ofAlfonso Cuarón with Yalitza Aparicio, Tavira Marina, Nancy García … 2:15. On Netflix from December 14th.

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