THE BALLAD OF GREGORIO CORTEZ – What first strikes you is the unique way the film is shot. By Director Robert M. Young (who also rewrote the script). There is a wonderful strangeness to its palette (starting with the striking choice of a lemon lime ocher sunset as opposed to the more often seen red one), and an originality to how it is shot, a lyricism that is at once somber and plaintiff and passing strange. Edward James Olmos, known for his taciturn performances, here gives his most emotive and impassioned channeling, as a family man, who one day at the hands of an alien and hostile law, has all sense leave his world.
A film about a rough miscarriage of justice in 1910, unfortunately remains sadly timely and prescient of the same type of miscarriages and abuses occurring, at the time of this writing, in 2020. The history we do not learn from we repeat. And it is not Latin history, or Anglo history, or Pan-African history, or Asian history, it is simply history.
The film could just as easily be called THE BALLAD OF KENNY WALKER. [ An active case as of this writing, Walker (the Boyfriend of Breonna Taylor), who tried to defend Ms. Taylor and their home, when men, later identified as law enforcement; broke-in, opening fire, and shooting the naked Ms. Taylor eight times.]
Film, the best of it, helps us internalize the missteps of history, and codifies a sense of morality, that urges us away from such similar follies. Never preachy, in simple strokes THE BALLAD OF GREGORIO CORTEZ tells us of outrages past, and if we be of human stuff, we may learn from it a better perspective of and answer to, outrages present.
Criterion has produced a simply must own Blu-ray release, sporting a not to be missed 2018 interview with Edward Janes Olmos, and adorned by the most striking and beautiful artwork/Blu-ray design; if you can own only a few Blu-rays, this Criterion release without a doubt should be among them. Grade: B+.
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