Las noches de Paloma

[The Nights of Paloma]

(Conacine-DASA Films, 1977) Exec Prod: Angélica Ortiz; Dir: Alberto Isaac; Scr: Francisco Sánchez; Orig Story: Giovanni Bocaccio ("La boda de el rey de Garbe"); Photo: Jorge Stahl Jr.; Music: Nacho Méndez; Prod Chief: Fidel Pizarro; Asst Dir: Manuel Ortega; Film Ed: José W. Bustos; Prod Design: Lucero Isaac; Art Dir: Javier Rodríguez; Set Decor: José González C.; Underwater Photo: Genaro Hurtado; Costumes: Georgette Somohano; Makeup: Sara Mateos; Sound Op: Alfredo Solís; Re-rec: Jesús González Gancy; Union: STPC

CAST: Cristina Baker (Paloma), Bruno Rey (don Gilberto), Pancho Córdova (don Ángel Monroy), Gregorio Casal (Abel Mancilla "El Pajarito"), Eric del Castillo (Gen. Othón Oropeza), Juan Peláez (Ramoncito Campoamor), Mario Casillas (Chente Mancilla), Mario Zebadua "Colocho" (Padrecito), Mauricio Herrera (The Devil), Delia Magaña (Sister Naná), Lola Beristáin (Sister Teté), Queta Lavat (Mamá), Gastón Melo (Sgt. Pifas), Paco Llopis (Doctor), Jaime Ramos (Calero), Ramiro Ramírez (guard), José Luis Moreno (Marcos), Carlos Gómez (singer), Francisco Mauri (Petronilo), Inés Murillo (doña Carmen), Xochitl del Rosario (doña Frutos), Santanón (Matías), Octavio Menduet (Elpidio), Fernando Pinkus (don Domitilo), María Barber (doña Trini), Claudio Isaac (gardener), Meche Carreño (singer), José Antonio Marros and Iaco Alva (lotería game barkers)

NOTES: Las noches de Paloma is something of a high-class "sexy comedy." Alberto Isaac, despite being a member of the intelligentsia and a "serious" rather than "commercial" filmmaker, was never hesitant to make films that had lusty or even vulgar aspects--but in good taste, if one can imagine such a seeming contradiction. Las noches de Paloma is basically a "road film" that depicts the repeated seductions of its (originally) virginal heroine, all told in a humorous fashion. In addition to the overall bawdy tone, Isaac is not above some basic physical slapstick (don Ángel is shot in the buttocks, General Oropeza's men throw water in his face while trying revive someone who has fainted, Oropeza demonstrates his marksmanship by shooting at a lamp but hits a chicken instead) and the script also contains some amusing dialogue (as well as occasional voiceover narration).

Like many of Isaac's films, Las noches de Paloma has a prologue, this time spoken rather than printed. The film takes place in Mexico during the Revolution, and "any resemblance to Mexican movies is intentional." The rich don Gilberto sends his trusted associate don Ángel to fetch his bride-to-be from the convent where she has been educated, with orders to deliver her "pure and untouched." However, no sooner do Ángel, Paloma, her mother, and two nuns--Sister Naná and Sister Teté--depart the convent than their coach is assaulted by bandit Abel "El Pajarito" and his men. Don Ángel is accidentally wounded by Paloma's mother, but he manages to escape with Paloma and the two nuns. They meet the rebel troops of General Oropeza, who is immediately smitten by the blonde beauty of Paloma. Paloma asks about the picture of a saint he wears on his sombrero. Oropeza says that this saint is being given a try-out, since his two previous patron saints failed him miserably, leading to defeats in battle with the Federals. She asks: "Have you lost many battles?" "Five or six," the gruff soldier replies. "How many battles have you fought?" Paloma asks. "Er...five or six," he admits.

That night, Oropeza fetes his guests, and arranges to get Paloma drunk so he can seduce her. The next morning, inspired by the night of love he has experienced, Oropeza tells his troops that they aren't going to waste their time attacking the Federales: from this time forward, they're going to loot haciendas and other poorly-defended sites. But while Oropeza and his troops are gone, bandit Abel arrives and carries Paloma away. Ángel and the two nuns go along. Abel also seduces Paloma and falls in love with her. He tells his brother Chente how wonderful she is, and that he's thinking about opening a shoe factory rather than being a bandit. Chente slugs his brother and rides off with Paloma, dropping her off at a country church after they have made love on horseback.

Gregorio Casal helps Cristina Baker get comfortable.

Don Ángel and the two nuns find Paloma at the church, where the elderly priest--apparently exhausted by her sensuality--says she is a "saint," just before he dies. The quartet continues across country. They spend one night in a cave, where the Devil appears and carries Paloma off for the evening. The next day, they think it was a dream (although Paloma retains a crystal pendant that the Devil had used to hypnotize them). While picking mushrooms for their breakfast, Paloma is frightened by a bear. She takes refuge in a handsome gypsy's wagon. The "bear" (a man in a costume) sits outside as the wagon rocks back and forth, suggestively.

Paloma--dressed like an American Indian "princess"--helps the gypsy and his "bear" sell patent medicine in a town. She meets Ramoncito, a rich young man (she had previously helped Abel rob him, but he doesn't hold this against her). After a night of love, Ramoncito is inspired to join the Revolution. The narrator says: "That's how Ramoncito Campoamor began his heroic revolutionary career. Two hours and 27 minutes later, five Mauser bullets put an end to it. There's a moral in there, but we still don't know what it is."

Reunited with don Ángel and the nuns once more, Paloma presses on towards her future husband's hacienda. Don Ángel bemoans his failure to deliver her in "pure" condition, but the nuns assure him that they know a few tricks. Don Gilberto marries Paloma, and the narrator informs us that it took nine nights of trying before the older man was able to "break through" and achieve happiness. As the film ends, Paloma appraises don Gilberto's handsome young gardener...

Las noches de Paloma is amusing and entertaining, although basically a one-joke picture (everyone finds Paloma so desirable, and she changes their lives--often for the worse--after they seduce her). Cristina Baker (in apparently her only Mexican movie role) is lovely and projects a sweet, guileless air perfectly in keeping with her role; the rest of the cast is fine, with Eric del Castillo stealing the show as the blustering but crafty Oropeza. It is interesting to see Gregorio Casal and his brother Mario Casillas playing brothers on-screen, and Meche Carreño (unless I am hallucinating) has a flashy, unbilled cameo as a singer who entertains at Oropeza's headquarters. Overall, this is a quality film which does not seem to have much of a critical reputation. Perhaps it was too "vulgar" for the intellectuals, and too "literary" for the mass audience.

Note: Nacho Méndez won a Diosa de Plata in 1979 for composing the score for Las noches de Paloma.

Return to the Alberto Isaac Page.

Review completed 11 May 2001 by David Wilt (