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Revolution and the Mexican ranch

September 25, 2003|Kevin Thomas

Fernando de Fuentes, Mexico's greatest director of the early sound period, was nothing if not a pragmatist. In 1935 he completed his landmark "Revolutionary Trilogy" with his dynamic and bitter "eforeVamonos con Pancho Villa!" debunking the mythical rebel leader through the fates of six brave and naive rancheros prepared to lay down their lives in his service. It remains a harsh, powerful movie but was a dud at the box office, which has been called a loss for the course of Mexican politics. Undaunted, the gifted Fuentes changed pace immediately with "Alla en el Rancho Grande" (1936), a love story set against an idealized depiction of life on a great ranch. This charming film proved enormously influential. It gave an identity to the Mexican cinema in the Spanish-speaking world, launched the comedia ranchera genre, popularized mariachi music and established the enduring international renown of its handsome singing star, Tito Guizar. These two films open UCLA's "Fernando de Fuentes: Of Revolution and Rancheras" series Saturday.

"eforeVamonos con Pancho Villa!" and "Alla en el Rancho Grande," Saturday, 7:30 p.m., at Melnitz Hall's James Bridges Theater on the UCLA campus. Other Fuentes films screen Sunday, 7 p.m., and Oct. 5. (310) 206-FILM.

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-- Kevin Thomas

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