Seven years after their spoof of shady rural Mexican politics, “Herod’s Law,” the team of director Luis Estrada and actor Damian Alcazar re-unite in Mexico City in “A Wonderful World.” Easily the most caustic and successful satire of the impact of globalization on Mexican citizens, picaresque pic follows a bum from the bottom to national celeb status and back to the skids. Alcazar’s lovable loser and victim of misfortune lends the film a human center, though whether it will find an international aud beyond solid local support (pic opened locally in March) is a question.
After a world conference on poverty declares there are no more poor people in Mexico, pic shows raggedy Juan Perez (Alca-zar) as he wanders through a prim suburban neighborhood and even-tually inside the h.q. of the World Financial Center to find a warm place to sleep. When he’s acciden-tally left out on a window ledge, everyone wrongly assumes Juan was making a political protest against the institute’s neo-liberal policies by threatening to jump.
Estrada’s and Jaime Sam-pietro’s clever script observes how an innocent mistake is ex-ploited by a battery of competing political interests.
Though obviously far from it in subject matter and setting, the course of “A Wonderful World” takes on several echoes of “A Clockwork Orange,” including his being rejected by parents, hassled by bums, used as a pawn by the government and, once in a hospi-tal, being fed like a king by friendly nurses. Both pics even share a prominent music cue, Edward Elgar’s “Pomp and Cir-cumstance,” and conclude their picaresque adventures on a star-tling note.
Estrada taps into Chaplin’s Lit-tle Tramp persona, from his deft way with physical antics to his expressive face perceiving injus-tice, and especially in Juan’s private life with his beloved Rosita (Cecilia Suarez). Eventu-ally marrying after Juan’s for-tunes rise, care of a calculating politico (Antonio Serrano), Juan and Rosita are set up in a cute but absurd little home with a picket fence in a remote suburban devel-opment — just one of several brilliant production design strokes by Salvador Parra.
As a constant reminder of where he came from, Juan is followed and pestered by his old homeless buddies (Ernesto Gomez Cruz, Jesus Ochoa and Silverio Palacios, all aces), comical ghosts of the other Mexico. While the film’s final image may push the envelope past tasteful satire, the pic’s roller-coaster ride of fortune and misfortune allows it to escape an air of utter hopelessness that inequities in Mexican society can ever change.
Pic solidifies Estrada’s unique position inside the Mexican film industry as a commercial auteur with a satirical p.o.v., His ability to draw on the gifts of a fine supporting cast peppered with strong thesps is a wonder — rang-ing from Guillermo Gil, in charge of a muckraking newspaper, and Serrano, to nifty cameos from helmer Alex Cox and Diego Luna.
Production is first-class, topped by Patrick Murguia’s dynamic lensing that switches between dark Mexico City streets and the ultra-bright modern interiors of the rich and powerful. Editing by Estrada and Mariana Rodriguez maintains a strong pace across two hours.