My Mexican Bretzel (2019) | Notes

A perfect bulk of personal recordings that span around twenty years and several countries meet with a creative and devoted filmmaker. My Mexican Bretzel is a found-footage montage by Nuria Giménez who finds about 50 rolls of raw film in the basement and comes up with an idea to make a feature film out of it. The 8/16 mm films are mostly shot by her grandfather Léon where the secret protagonist is a silent grandmother Vivian who talks to us by subtitles instead of a voiceover. She travels with Léon for years and writes sincere and satirical notes to her diary. As we travel in the mid 20th century, we are also witnessing the inner voice, longings, and observations of Vivian that create a tension with the visuals every once in a while.

Vivian and Léon travel from Europe to North America, starting from the postwar years until the 60s. Giménez writes a fictional story on top of the films that dramatize the life of Vivian via her diaries. The narrative creates a sense of realism at first, but as the film unfolds, it becomes apparent that the visuals are authentic but the rest -story, sound effects, or quotes- is fiction or extra-diegetic.

I liked the film since I felt that it defined and achieved some interesting goals. Building a coherent and impressive story from a set of memory records is the first. It was also a meticulous craft to delve into this several-hour archive and come up with a traceable story without perishing in the personal and familial retrospective. It’s apparent the the filmmaker is not particularly interested in found-footage and trying to make an essay-film out of it, it’s just a coincidence that she found the material and came up with an artistic narrative creation with it that is not largely aimed at in the found-footage filmmaking domain. In the Q/A section, the filmmaker sincerely told that it took around eight years for her to finish the film which also gave me an idea about the duration giving a perspective about keeping aloof from the material.

Maybe one last thing that deserves appraisal about the film is the actual cinematography of the raw footage. For certain, the way the filmmaker brought these segments together adds the actual value to the sequences but many of the pieces by themselves were already shot so beautifully, almost by a puppeteer who foresaw the rise of personal filmmaking in the 21st century. The shots cover a pristine and voyeuristic gaze on the texture of the cities, landscapes, and nature. From the energetic surf scenes to fragile walks on the ice or inspections of the shop windows, I think the unthought cameraman also contributed a lot to it.

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