Samain Bare Aspen Moon
Movie recommendation: Coco. A pixar film. Gabe and I went to see it. I loved this film so much that I’ll certainly buy it when it comes out on DVD and I will go see it again. Something I rarely do.
The story itself is touching. A young boy, Miguel, raised in a family that has banned music, wants to be a musician. He goes searching for a way to play and in the process ends up in the land of the dead over the holiday of Dias de los muertos. He’s searching for his great-great-great grandfather who left his wife to go on the road with his music and never returned. That abandonment is the reason for the family ban on music.
His adventures, accompanied by an engaging Mexican hairless dog, lead him eventually to a surprising revelation about his family history. He is almost trapped in the land of the dead, which he must leave before sunrise on Dias de los muertos or remain there forever. But with the help of his dead family, the very ones pictured on the ofrenda in his home, he makes it back to the land of the living. The end is a hymn to family, to the power of music, to the transformative nature of dreams. I cried.
The cgi in this film is extraordinary, transporting the viewer back and forth between the living and the dead, the past and the present with ease and beauty. The music itself is wonderful, too.
It also reminded me of a deep fascination I have with Mexican culture, its depth and its sense of wonder. Contemporary Mexican culture mixes together indigenous beliefs from such varied backgrounds as the Olmec, the Aztec and the Maya with a Roman Catholic faith transformed by the contact. It layers Spanish culture on top of the various cultures that existed in Mexico. Coco shows all this, not in a heavy handed or obvious way, but doesn’t caricature it, either.
Two small examples. At one point, when it looks as if he will be stuck in the land of dead, Miguel is thrown in what appears to be a hole in the earth with a lake at its bottom. It’s really a cenote of sacrifice, an artifact of Mayan civilization, one I’ve seen at Chichen Itza. Also, in the land of the dead there are colorful winged serpents. Quetzalcoatl is a feathered serpent god in both Aztec and Mayan mythology.
With the growing Latino presence in the U.S. this movie can help us gringos get a sense of their culture well beyond tacos and mariachis. It is a rich, mysterious, wonder-filled culture and Coco is a good ambassador for it.