Written and directed by Omar Rodriguez-Lopez
USA and Mexico, 2012
Producer, writer, actor, and director Omar Rodriguez-Lopez (best know as the composer, songwriter, guitarist, and producer for the progressive rock groups The Mars Volta and At the Drive-In) left audiences at SXSW buzzing about his feature film Los Chidos, where it had its premiere. The film has been praised as one of the most innovative, and challenging, movies of the year; there are scenes of domestic violence, incest, golden showers, fecalphilia, slaughterhouses, and even a sequence that almost rivals the infamous baby-rape scene in A Serbian Film. But amidst the graphic content, perhaps the biggest challenge is sitting through a movie that has been re-dubbed in post production. Rodriguez-Lopez replaced all of the dialogue with ADR, creating an overly artificial, goofy sound. The dialogue is delivered in exaggerated tones, which is quite quite jarring, and frankly annoying to sit through. Clearly, the director altered the sound to keep viewers disconnected, but the decision not only undercuts the more harrowing moments of the film, but also gets in the way of the fantastic soundtrack – a soundtrack that utilizes several of Ennio Morricone’s scores along with a collage of traditional Mexican music and ballads. The cheerful song selection was enough to contrast the horrific imagery onscreen, without needing to inject the purposely badly dubbed dialogue. For those of you who dislike watching movies dubbed, Los Chidos will most likely not be your cup of tea.
Set amid the outskirts of an unknown Mexican city, Los Chidos follows the Gonzales family, who unofficially adopt an American industrialist named Kim, who visits their tire-repair shop after his car breaks down. A scenario unfolds where Kim finds himself welcomed into their fold. He soon falls in love with the newlywed bride of the family’s neighbour. What was supposed to be a one-night stop turns into a prolonged stay, and every day brings with it some dark and terrible secrets.
The film is both disturbing and gleeful in its violence and caused several walkouts during a screening in Montreal. At one point, Rodriguez-Lopez indulges in an orgy of blood, and baby consumption, and does so with a cheerfully warped sense of humour. Each shocking moment acts as a metaphor, only too much of it is a little too on the nose. Los Chidos is desperately depraved; a satirical, sociopolitical commentary on gender roles in religion and society, and just how fucked up the male psyche is. With Los Chidos, the director explores the nature of Latino male culture and its negative stereotypes, such as how homophobia, classicism, misogyny, and racism have been passed down through generations. But in the end, any hint of a reasonable argument is somehow lost by the absurdity of it all.
On a more positive note, the vivid, gorgeous, sunbaked cinematography contrasts well against the close-ups of butchered carcasses, menstrual bloodshed, and other extremely graphic scenes of domestic violence and child abuse. For having been shot on a shoestring budget in 17 days with a skeleton crew, Los Chidos looks great. In the end, Los Chidos is far too silly to call intellectually engaging, but this bad-taste comedy is surely the most gag-inducing film to come out this year.
– Ricky D