Eye For Film >> Movies >> Carmin Tropical (2014) Film Review
Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson
Rigoberto Pérezcano's debut Northless was a character-driven, blackly comic look at the plight of those trying to cross from Mexico into the US. His second film is much darker but also interested in character study, although this protagonist is going back in search of their old life rather than trying to embark on a new one. His neo-noir is a mystery investigated by an enigma which unfolds like a regretful lament - succeeding more in its atmosphere than its story.
Mabel (José Pecina) is a muxe - a term adopted in the southern state of Oaxaca, where fluidity of sexuality is widely accepted, and which refers to a man who dresses as a woman, although they generally consider themselves a 'third gender' rather than trans. Mabel left her hometown without saying goodbye some years ago but has returned following the brutal murder of her muxe friend Dani (Juan Carlos Medellin). Back in Juchitan she reconnects with her old cabaret and strip joint boss and friends, while trying to do a bit of detective work on the side.
As she uses photos to try to plot the last days of her friend's life and visits their haunts, while sparking up a romantic daliance with local cabbie Modesto (Luis Alberti), Pérezcano hints at her past through a heady carnival flashback. The repeated images such as this and frequent shots of ceiling fans achieve much more than Mabel's inner monologue, which is used too often and reveals too little. While the languid scenes of friendship hit their mark and Pecina is magnetic in the central role - easily flitting between the steely determination of wanting to find out what happened to her friend and the flush of new love - the film feels aloof from the community where it is set, with Pérezcano missing an opportunity to give his film more social heft.
Neither the mystery of Mabel's past nor the mystery she faces in her present fully satisfy - the former is too opaque and the latter telegraphed early, although it must be said that the early tipping of Pérezcano's hand winds his already tense ending even tighter and gives it a more psychological kick.Reviewed on: 12 Apr 2016