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Latin American Melodrama

Latin American Melodrama: Passion, Pathos, and Entertainment

Edited and with an Introduction by DARLENE J. SADLIER
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 192
  • Book Info
    Latin American Melodrama
    Book Description:

    Like their Hollywood counterparts, Latin American film and TV melodramas have always been popular and highly profitable. The first of its kind, this anthology engages in a serious study of the aesthetics and cultural implications of Latin American melodramas. Written by some of the major figures in Latin American film scholarship, the studies range across seventy years of movies and television within a transnational context, focusing specifically on the period known as the "Golden Age" of melodrama, the impact of classic melodrama on later forms, and more contemporary forms of melodrama. An introductory essay examines current critical and theoretical debates on melodrama and places the essays within the context of Latin American film and media scholarship._x000B__x000B_Contributors are Luisela Alvaray, Mariana Baltar, Catherine L. Benamou, Marvin D'Lugo, Paula Felix-Didier, Andres Levinson, Gilberto Perez, Darlene J. Sadlier, Cid Vasconcelos, and Ismail Xavier.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09232-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Film Studies

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. INTRODUCTION: A Short History of Film Melodrama in Latin America
    (pp. 1-18)

    In 1990, in recognition of the approaching centenary of film, the journalArtes de México: Nueva épocadedicated an entire issue to photographs and commentaries about Mexican cinema. Directors, actors, cinematographers, scriptwriters, film historians, and critics from different generations were interviewed about their first memorable cinematic experience, their favorite movies and genres, and their thoughts about current and future trends in Mexican filmmaking. One of the most striking aspects of this special issue is that individual golden-age melodramas, in particular, Emilio “El Indio” Fernández’sMaría Candelaria(1943) andEnamorada(Woman in Love, 1946) are repeatedly invoked as powerful initiations into...

  5. 1 Melodrama of the Spirited Woman: Aventurera
    (pp. 19-32)

    Everybody speaks of melodrama, often disparagingly, but it’s not easy to define it. The definition I heard as a kid was that melodrama makes the characters subordinate to the plot, but when I read thePoeticsI saw that Aristotle prescribed the same thing for tragedy. Some would define melodrama by its play on our feelings, by the intensity of emotion that it elicits, but that again scarcely distinguishes it from tragedy. Looking to the audience, others would distinguish melodrama as popular art from tragedy as elite art, but then few tragedies would make the grade besides the courtly French...

  6. 2 Melodrama and the Emergence of Venezuelan Cinema
    (pp. 33-49)

    The melodramatic imagination in Venezuela as in other parts of Latin America has been described by many theorists as accompanying the experiences of modernity. It manifests itself through different media and acquires multiple formats—theatrical chronicles, thefeuilleton, radionovelas, telenovelas,rancheras, tangos, boleros, and cinematic melodramas, among others. It also provides readers and audiences with an emotional education or tools for social behavior within particular ideological frameworks. Many times, melodramas are centered on female subjectivities in search of sentimental and sexual reaffirmation in a world that oscillates between independence and conformism or between liberation and submissiveness. Therefore, even though women...

  7. 3 The Building of a Nation: La guerra gaucha as Historical Melodrama
    (pp. 50-63)

    In every review of, tribute to, or celebration of the history of Argentine cinema there is invariably a reference or allusion toLa guerra gaucha(The Gaucho War, 1942). Directed by Lucas Demare, the film became one of Argentina’s most revered pictures. Its public and critical success owes much to the prestige of its cast and crew and its quality as a big-budget production. Adapted from a 1904 volume of short stories titledLa guerra gauchaby the Argentine writer Leopoldo Lugones, the film takes place in the northern province of Salta in 1818 during the War of Independence (1810...

  8. 4 Women as Civilizers in 1940s Brazilian Cinema: Between Passion and the Nation
    (pp. 64-76)

    The growing interest of the Brazilian state in cinema from the 1930s onward took place within a very broad context. Under the Estado Novo (New State) dictatorship of Getúlio Vargas (1937–45), there was an attempt to achieve greater political and cultural centralization of local oligarchies that had controlled the First Republic (1889–1930). The nation was increasingly viewed through the filter of the state, which believed itself to be its most faithful representative. In films to be discussed in this essay, there was a definite and far from coincidental parallel between values associated with the nation’s identity and those...

  9. 5 The Humiliation of the Father: Melodrama and Cinema Novo’s Critique of Conservative Modernization
    (pp. 77-95)

    During the late 1960s, a significant shift in focus toward the representation of private life and family dramas occurred in Brazilian cinema. This change took place after a decade in which the national cinema had primarily concerned itself with the public sphere and with labor exploitation, social movements, political history, and allegories of national identity. Some Cinema Novo and post-Cinema Novo films provide compelling evidence of this change of emphasis. For example,Copacabana me engana(Copacabana Deceives Me, Antônio Carlos Fontoura, 1969) andBrasil ano 2000(Walter Lima Junior, 1969) focus on moral conflicts deriving from the generation gaps dividing...

  10. 6 Nelson Pereira dos Santos’s Cinema de lágrimas
    (pp. 96-109)

    In 1994 the distinguished Brazilian director Nelson Pereira dos Santos, who is widely regarded as the founder of the radical Cinema Novo movement of the 1960s and 1970s, began work on a project for the British Film Institute (BFI) to commemorate the centenary of cinema. The BFI had commissioned nearly twenty directors worldwide to make movies that would portray the history of cinema in their respective countries. The idea was perhaps excessively nationalistic, and it was inconsistently applied.¹ Instead of recognizing Latin America as a large and culturally diverse geographic region where different languages are spoken, the BFI chose to...

  11. 7 Luis Alcoriza; or, A Certain Antimelodramatic Tendency in Mexican Cinema
    (pp. 110-129)

    At the center of Luis Alcoriza’s award-winning 1971 filmMecánica nacional(National Mechanics) we find a scene that self-consciously parodies one of the prominent tropes that historically have shaped Mexico’s movie melodramas: the cult of the iconic maternal figure. Set in a rural locale on the outskirts of Mexico City, the scene involves the makeshift lying-in-state of the family matriarch, Doña Lolita (Sara García), who, the night before, had come with her family to view the final laps of a national car race but died suddenly after overeating and drinking. A television crew assigned to cover the racing event captures...

  12. 8 Weeping Reality: Melodramatic Imagination in Contemporary Brazilian Documentary
    (pp. 130-138)

    A middle-aged man faces the camera in his living room. An off-screen voice asks him about family matters and everyday life until he gradually begins to recount episodes from the labor struggle of the late 1970s, during Brazil’s military dictatorship. Led by union president Luis Inácio Lula da Silva, who had been a metalworker, this struggle ultimately resulted in the creation of the Partido dos Trabalhadores (Workers’ Party) and, much later, the election of “Lula” as the president of Brazil in 2002. João Chapéu, the man being interviewed on-camera, participated in the workers’ strike. When the dictatorship squashed the movement,...

  13. 9 Televisual Melodrama in an Era of Transnational Migration: Exporting the Folkloric Nation, Harvesting the Melancholic-Sublime
    (pp. 139-172)

    Over the course of the past few decades, film scholars North and South have found in the themes, audiovisual styles, popular archetypes, casting, and settings of screen melodrama fertile terrain for an investigation of the social dynamics and aesthetics of “national” cinemas in Latin America. Yet during the same period, telenovelas have carried most of the cultural burden of “narrating the nation” (López 261–66). This burden derives not only from the genre’s proven ability to attract advertising revenue at home and abroad but also from its consistently high ratings—its ability to reach and attract millions of viewers who,...

  14. Contributors
    (pp. 173-174)
  15. Index of Names and Titles
    (pp. 175-183)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 184-185)