Friday, January 11, 2019

A Few More Notes On Roma


I agree with most of what you say about Cleo being fixed in her social place, but I would put a more positive spin on it. I think the movie shows Cleo as having tremendous strength and importance in the family despite her low social status. She is the anchor that holds the entire family together during turbulent times.

Also, it's interesting that Cleo's apparent acceptance of her social role is contrasted with her boyfriend Fermin's strong desire to rise above his social position and become a person of importance. And the irony is that Fermin is ultimately more controlled by outside forces than Cleo. Fermin becomes a pawn in a CIA plan (if you remember, Fermin's martial arts trainer is American and there's someone wearing a CIA cap in that scene) to attack left-wing student protesters who are trying to empower the marginalized class to which Fermin and Cleo belong.


I didn’t meant to undervalue or under-appreciate Cleo. I think she’s shown in a most positive light for who she is, a poor village girl with no real prospects, as the movie has it, of rising above the place she’s fixed in. She’s shown to be virtually saintly, virtually because she’s not a saint but a flesh and blood person. In her element, with the kids or her fellow maids, she’s comfortable, engaged and happy. When she has to step out of her class, she becomes tongue tied and apprehensive as when she first meets with the doctor to see if she’s pregnant. She can’t answer the simplest questions with anything but a minimal gesture of her head or a short word in response. 

I had emphasized that she’s bound socially in part to illustrate how the movie treats class. Richard Brody a New Yorker film critic argues the movie condescends to her and needed to a firmer political stance opposed to the poverty the movie limns. In opposition to that criticism, another of its film critics, Anthony Lane, notes he can understand the desire of some for a firmer political position, more oppositional outrage, in the film, but that it’s simply not that kind of a movie; rather it’s a movie that shows things as they are and its focus are the ongoing lives within that, principally of course Cleo’s. I’m firmly in the Anthony Lane camp on this.

You have a nice insight into Cleo’s accepting stoicism as against what drives Fermin. 

I’m not sure though about the idea of him being subject to forces beyond him more than she is. I detect a category error, a comparing of apples and bananas. He has the choice of whether to involve himself as he does and pursues it with a grim determination. He is of course an entirely repellent person and unlike Cleo is heedless of the responsibilities and consequences of his actions. He’s a pig and a heel.

So, in her passivity, in things abstract and beyond her affecting her, she seems to me like maybe a piece of drift wood floating as it will on the surface of waters till they’re roiled by nature—the earthquake or even her getting pregnant—or social upheaval—the student protests. She’s less affected or by social forces because she’s “buried alive” beneath them, is oblivious of them save as they impinge on her simply by her being in their midst and is for the most part, it seems, not understanding of them. 

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