Throughout Mexican cinema history the location of the image has always, by some means, controlled the identification process undergone by the spectator. Attributes of lifestyle, morality, and personal characteristics have been allocated to particular cinematic spaces in Mexican filmmaking. By tradition, these filmic sites have carried with them symbolic qualities that assign to the image constructed notions of identity, space, and place. The ever-changing landscape of a cinematic Mexico projected and shaped by contemporary Mexican filmmakers will be the topic of discussion in this article. Taking as its focal point Alfonso Cuaron's opera prima, Solo con tu pareja / Love in the Time of Hysteria (MX, 1991), this detailed filmic analysis will demonstrate how the above film contributed, if not kick-started, the cinematic transformation and (re)formation of Mexico City on the screen. The filmic examination will be placed within its context by observing samples from Mexican cinema history, with the aim of tracing a development in the representations of Mexico City on celluloid. This article will show how life there, as inhabited by ckilangos (Mexico City dwellers), is reinterpreted in Sólo con tu pareja, re-presenting a familiar image of urban living complete with a modern twist. Ultimately the study will show how with this film, Cuaron's filmic re-presentation influenced contemporary Mexican cinema's projection of Mexico City on the screen, paving the way for subsequent cinematic portrayals of the nation's capital that reach beyond domestic spectatorship.
Space, Place, and Identity in Mexican Cinema
Onscreen representations of Mexico City have existed since the introduction of the cinematic apparatus into the country, and examples can be traced as far back as the early stages of Mexican filmmaking in 1897, observed in the work of Salvador Toscano-Barragán and his portrayals of City life. The end of the nineteenth century also brought potential filmmakers an awareness of the political benefits of the medium, as exemplified by Porfirio Díaz's exploitation of the screen in order to maximize his personal exposure, seen in the documentaries Grupo en movimiento del General Díaz y de algunas personas de su familia / General Díaz and His Group in Movement (MX, 1896) and El General Díaz paseando par el basque de Chapultepec / General Díaz. Strolling in the Forest of Chapultepec (MX, 1896).1 These documentaries captured the chief executive going about his seemingly daily affairs, in and around the nation's capital. The Díaz documentary reels also set a precedent that was to continue throughout Mexican cinema history that saw the use of onscreen representations of familiar Mexican demographic spaces in images that contained a political message intent on creating a sense of national identity.2 However, it was not until the Golden Age period of filmmaking that Mexico City was to be consolidated as the central cinematic location.
Mexico City in Golden Age Cinema
Mexican film scholars have identified three generic categories for Golden Age films whose narratives are set in Mexico City.3 The first genre consists of films that were based in the capital's slums and belonged to the arrabalgenre, seen for example in Ismael Rodriguez's urban trilogy, Nosotros los pobres / We the Poor (MX, 1947), Ustedes los ricos/ You the Rich (MX, 1948), and Pepe el Ton (MX, 1952).4 The second features the boxing genre, made popular by Alejandro Galindo's Campeon sin corona / Champion without a Crown (MX, 1945), a theme developed also in Pepe el Toro. The boxing genre in Golden Age cinema in many ways worked closely with the arrabal genre, in films that often depicted the boxer as an underprivileged hero who literally fought to escape from a life of poverty. Thirdly, mirroring Hollywood's film noir, the political thriller (and/or police drama) in close alliance with the cabaretera genre in Mexican cinema provided the spectator with cinematic examples of a dangerous nocturnal city life. …