Saturday, 26 July 2008

Rene Castillo "Hasta Los Huesos" (Down to the Bone)

A rather sombre funeral set against an orange sky is the dramatic opening to Hasta Los Huesos, an eleven minute short made by the Mexican director, Rene Castillo. A white rose is thrown down by a mourner onto the coffin. The moment it rests on the face of the corpse his eyes open and he discovers himself trapped in the coffin as the attendants continue to heap earth on his grave and his family mourns. With an impressive set and skilled use of clay animation we follow the recently deceased to a land of decadence where memories of his wife and family are dismembered with copious tequila, the carousing of skeletal reprobates and the voice of a nightclub singer. Should the afterlife consist of such bacchanalian festivities perhaps we need not worry after all. The movie certainly makes an interesting comparison with Tim Burton’s quite wonderful The Corpse Bride made four years later. It is a film full of beautifully (de)composed scenes with a distinctly Mexican flavour, almost of carnival at times. The transition from padded coffin to hell is cleverly handled and the gradual dissolution of his ties to earth is woven together with flair. The appearance of the worm with big teeth and its links with tequila gives a Mexican twist - consider the worm's traditional link to all-conquering Death and that in this narrative the worm loses. The singer’s voice (all red lipstick, white face and black hollow eyes) is provided by the remarkable Eugenia Leon singing the traditional La Llorona (The Crying Woman) and the music for the film as a whole from the Mexican band, Café Tacuba, a delight. I must finally mention Sergio Ulloa's cinematography which is outstanding, providing spectacle to a movie that deals with its potentially dismal subject with intelligence and conspicuous wit. I intend to review Rene's earlier movie, Sin Sosten, shortly.


Smilodonna said...

I really adore this lovely piece of animation (I certainly wouldn't argue with what seems to be the frequent descriptor of "claymation at its best"). Thanks for explaining who was involved and providing such a nice write-up; after watching it for the umpteenth time in the past month or so since I first happened upon it, I realized I knew all too little about it.

Ian Lumsden said...

Thank you for the comment. It's a good movie and if the spirit world is half so much fun as this the afterworld would be a happier place. I need to check out other work by the director.