El rincón de las vírgenes
[The Virgins' Corner]
(Estudios Churubusco Azteca, 1972) Exec Prod: Angélica Ortiz; Dir/Scr: Alberto Isaac; Orig. Stories: Juan Rulfo; Photo: Raúl Martínez Solares, Daniel López; Music: Joaquín Gutiérrez Heras; Prod Mgr: Ignacio Bonillas; Prod Chief: Alfredo Chávez; Asst Dir: Américo Fernández; Film Ed: Carlos Savage; Art Dir/Costume Des: Lucero Isaac; Decor: Carlos Grandjean; Makeup: Sara Mateos; Dialog Rec: Javier Mateos; Re-rec: Ramón Moreno; Sound Ed: Sigfrido García; Rec: José F. Baena; Union: STPC; Eastmancolor
Cast: Emilio Fernández (Anacleto Morones), Alfonso Arau (Lucas Lucatero), Rosalba Brambila (Leona), Carmen Salinas (Pancha Fregoso), Lilia Prado (Nieves García), Pancho Córdova (Melesio Terrones), Héctor Ortega (Governor), Marcela López Rey (governor's wife), Graciela Doring (Eva), Lola Beristáin (Sra. Terrones), Lina Montes (Tencha), Patricio Castillo (Tomás), María Barber (the orphan), Regina Herrera (disgruntled guest), Carlos Gómez, José Rocha (drunk), Mario Brizuela, Paco Zaragoza (engineer), Delfina Chávez (handicapped girl), Gabriel Portillo, Manuel Cedeño, Hugo Fierros, Daniel Macedo (moustached man), José A. Zaragoza, Melchor Fierros, Carlos Zaragoza, Leticia Gaytán, José Aguilar, Juan Guerrero, Leonor Gómez, Guillermina Caspar, Jesusa Anguiano, Claudia Christy, Rosario Bejarano, María Vargas, Esperanza Martínez, Sabino García
Notes: this film starts extremely well but loses steam in the latter sequences and comes to a rather unsatisfactory, vague conclusion. However, El rincón de las vírgenes is still a very entertaining movie, and well worth watching, although it falls somewhat short of masterpiece status.
On his farm, Lucas Lucatero receives a delegation of women from the town of Comala: they are adherents of Anacleto Morones, and want Lucas--Anacleto's former right-hand man--to go with them and testify to the "miracles" performed by Anacleto in hopes of having him declared a saint. In flashback, Lucas recalls his association with Anacleto and his niece, Leona...
Anacleto and Leona make a precarious living selling printed corridos (narrative ballads) and other items in villages on market day. One evening, they attend the cinema, where Lucas works as the "explicador" (someone who narrates silent movies). Anacleto offers Lucas a job. On their way to the next town, Anacleto suddenly strips off his shirt and lies down on an anthill until his entire torso is covered with the stinging insects--yet he is unharmed. This demonstration of his "power" impresses a passerby into making a monetary donation (Anacleto buys a new pair of shoes, "that squeak--because how will you know they're new, unless they squeak?"). Anacleto, Lucas, and Leona go into the faith healer business; when Anacleto cures the paralyzed daughter of municipal president Melesio Terrones (and gives Melesio a salve which restores the older man's sexual potency), they decide to make the town of Comala their headquarters. Visitors flock to meet the holy man. Anacleto spends a lot of time with his female disciples, especially the nubile ones. Lucas marries Leona. After an earthquake strikes Comala, the state governor and his wife pay a visit. While Melesio and the governor tour the damaged town, the governor's wife goes to Anacleto to have her aching back treated. The governor catches Anacleto massaging his naked spouse, and the holy man is tossed in jail. Some time later, Anacleto is freed and visits Lucas on his farm, demanding his share of their proceeds. After an argument that escalates to a brawl, Lucas kills Anacleto and buries his body on the farm. When Leona comes home (Lucas accuses her of cheating on him), she finds Anacleto's bloody shoes and runs away through the woods, naked.
El rincón de las vírgenes is a good-natured movie, at least until the final moments. Anacleto's "miracles" are all explained away--he says ants won't bite you if you are biting your tongue, and he cures Melesio's daughter using acupuncture he learned from a Chinese man ("this will either cure her or really screw her up," he tells Lucas)--but his clients seem satisfied and no one is really harmed by his scam (except for one man who's locked up, accusing of mutilating corpses, while it is implied Anacleto is the culprit). He cheerfully gives away Leona to Lucas (probably because he has numerous other young women to sleep with), although Emilio García Riera suggests the final confrontation between Anacleto and Lucas might be related to Leona rather than solely over money.
Emilio Fernández seems to be enjoying himself as the lusty Anacleto, who doesn't take himself seriously and enthusiastically participates in the various "rituals" of his new life. Alfonso Arau is also quite good as the cynical Lucas, who tries to explain Anacleto's true nature to the beatas who visit him. Pancha admits she slept with Anacleto, but only slept with him: "that's because you weren't young and attractive," Lucas retorts. The women enthusiastically remember a trip to the seashore, where Anacleto and his followers plunged into the surf, but Lucas reminds them that one of their members disappeared, presumably drowned. Lucas also plies his uninvited guests with alcoholic ponche and tries to seduce Nieves, his former sweetheart (Lilia Prado, virtually unrecognizable). It's curious that the two protagonists of the movie were both film directors themselves (although Arau had only directed one movie prior to this point): reportedly, Emilio Fernández didn't especially like Isaac, or was perhaps envious that a relative "novice" was making very personal movies (Fernández hadn't directed a movie since 1968, but would return to the director's chair in 1973 with La Choca).
El rincón de las vírgenes contains some very humorous passages. The funniest sight gag occurs when the governor mildly raps a earthquake-damaged house with his cane, only to have the whole building collapse! The narration provided by Lucas in the movie theatre is also amusing (the theatre is called the "Lucero," possibly a reference to Isaac's wife). The small-town setting and the 1920s period are evoked almost flawlessly, which isn't surprising considering Isaac drew upon his own childhood memories for films like this and Los días del amor. While the script is drawn from different stories by Juan Rulfo, the picture is well-paced and not as episodic as, for example, Tivoli. In addition to Fernández and Arau, mentioned above, the rest of the cast is fine: Rosalba Brambila is very beautiful (but doesn't have enough screen time, in my opinion), while Córdova, Salinas, Ortega, and Prado turn in good performances.
El rincón de las vírgenes won Diosas de Plata as Best Film and for Isaac as Best Director. In the Ariel Awards, Alfonso Arau was nominated as Best Actor.
Rincón is available on video from Oxxo Films. Support video companies who are making Mexican movies available on video tape, and--remember--"diga no a la piratería" (which, in my opinion, applies to all films currently "in print" on commercial video in the USA).
Back to the Alberto Isaac Page.
This review completed 10 May 2001 by David Wilt (firstname.lastname@example.org).