First-time director Beto Gomez, 28, makes a passionate and intermittently pleasing attempt to show the real Mexico in "The Hole," in which crudeness of style and of subject are perfectly matched. With only $ 50,000 in his pocket, Gomez rightly decided to throw away all pretensions to sophistication and play the passion and energy cards.

First-time director Beto Gomez, 28, makes a passionate and intermittently pleasing attempt to show the real Mexico in “The Hole,” in which crudeness of style and of subject are perfectly matched. With only $ 50,000 in his pocket, Gomez rightly decided to throw away all pretensions to sophistication and play the passion and energy cards. The result is a bizarre, striking little pic that lingers oddly in the memory.

Haggard old-timer Pachuco (Roberto Cobo, vet of Bunuel’s 1950 classic “Los Olvidados”) returns to his Mexican pueblo after 30 years of Stateside struggle. Everything has changed: There’s no hope of the hero’s welcome he dreamed of, and of which there are dramatized glimpses. Pachuco hits the tequila big-time with old drinking buddy Chavita (Jose Luis Pimentel), and, on the eve of the Day of the Dead, they are thrown into jail by policemen looking for scapegoats.

Pachuco and Chavita are joined in their cell by various outsiders, each of whom tells the story of how he came to be there. There’s overweight, violent truck-driver Hilario (Pedro Altamirano), laugh-at-life loser Juan (Jorge Bayardo), a tourist who seems to be punished by the script merely for being a gringo, and a madman who at one point sticks his hands into the toilet bowl and throws the contents around. As a metaphor for the multiple injustices of life in Mexico, pic is hardly subtle, but it does have a kind of delirious, in-your-face charm, with helmer Gomez taking a boyish pleasure in shock images.

Dialogue manages moments of streetwise wit, and perfs (often caught in single takes) are wonderfully over-the-top. But there is no character development and little dramatic tension, the result of oversimplistic scripting. Pic’s structure is peculiar, intercutting documentary-style sequences of preparations for the Day of the Dead with the jail sequences, in an attempt to show us the wider social context of what is happening inside the “hole.” These docu-type segs have a haunting power, but they seem finally to be additions to the storyline rather than evolving naturally from it. Tech credits are low-budget.

The Hole

Spanish-Mexican

Production

An Esicma (Spain)/Dejarme Disfrutar (Mexico) production. (International sales: Esicma, Madrid.) Produced by Raul Fernandez Espinosa, Juan Gordon. Directed by Beto Gomez. Screenplay, Gomez, Rabdul Fez.

Crew

Camera (color), Hector Osuna; editor, Nacho Ruiz-Capillas; music, Javier (Shaggy) Alzaga Casillas; sound (Dolby), Antonino Isordia. Reviewed at San Sebastian Film Festival (Open Zone), Sept. 22, 1997. Running time: 80 MIN.

With

Pachuco - Roberto Cobo Hilario - Pedro Altamirano Juan - Jorge Bayardo Policemen - Jorge Becerril, Lorenzo Feijoo Chavita - Jose Luis Pimentel

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