HTF Review: Solo Con Tu Pareja

PatWahlquist

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Solo Con Tu Pareja

Studio: The Criterion Collection # 353
Rated: R
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 enhanced for 16x9 displays
Audio: English DD 2.0
Subtitles: English
Time: 94 minutes
Disc Format: 1 DVD-9
Case Style: Keepcase.
Theatrical Release Date: 1991
DVD Release Date: October 17, 2006


Labeled a sexycomedia in its home country of Mexico, Alfonso Cuaron’s Solo Con Tu Pareja (Only with Your Partner) delves into the life of the Don Juan-esque Tomas Tomas (Daniel Gimenez Cacho). Tomas (an ad writer) is a ladies man: he sleeps with everyone he can, his boss included, with little regard for the women or him. Each morning as he wakes up with last night’s lady and he goes out of his apartment to retrieve the paper, a ritual that requires apple eating, nakedness and speed. As he returns to begin his day of work, he paces his apartment in his green Converse, smashing paper cups as a memory of each girl he’s had. This seems to be a way to break through his writing blocks to provide stunning copy. At this point, he is vexed by a jalapeno pepper campaign so we are shown what he must do to write the ad. Tomas is also a hypochondriac who relies on his doctor/ neighbor, Mateo (Luis De Icaza), and his wife Teresa (Astrid Hadad), to continue to tell him he’s just fine.

While at Mateo’s office to verify his lack of illness, Tomas quickly seduces the nurse, Sylvia (Dobrina Liubomirova) and sets up a date with her. Sylvia, who seems wise to Tomas’ lothario ways, makes sure a simple blood test asserts her dominance in the relationship. Tomas has set up a date with his boss the same night Sylvia is coming over, so he uses Mateo’s apartment to dash back and forth (on a ledge several stories up, no less) between the two girls. While he is in the middle of one of these go-betweens, he peers in the window of a new neighbor, the lovely Clarissa (Claudia Ramirez), a flight attendant who practices her safety speech each night at home. Even though he beds both dates, Tomas realizes he’s truly in love with Clarissa. As can be expected, Sylvia and Tomas’ boss find out about the other and cast him off, but Sylvia goes one step further. She doctor’s his blood tests to say he is in fact HIV positive. Tomas receives this news about the same time Clarissa finds out about her philandering fiancée’. Tomas and Clarissa, brought together by cruel fates, real or faked, decide to make permanent changes in their lives which may put a new love in flight provided their means to get their don’t kill them first.

Solo Con Tu Pareja debuts in America via this new Criterion edition. Cuaron’s picture was seen briefly at the Toronto Film Festival in 1991 and received favorable reviews. However, due to the sad state of the Mexican film industry (the country produced as few as eleven movies a year), this picture languished in its homeland, while thankfully its director did not. Cuaron tackles the weighty topic of AIDS and masks it as a sex comedy, a bold move to be sure. Set in context, AIDS was barely being addressed by Hollywood in 1991, and certainly not in Mexican cinema, so Curaon’s decision to show the potential effects of a promiscuous lifestyle in the modern age was somewhat revolutionary. Still, the picture uses the disease as a scare tactic to help its main character make positive changes to his life, but we see that it is this as much as him simply finding the right girl to bring one to that point. Solo Con Tu Pareja does well as a slapstick comedy, a staple of traditional Mexican films, while making valid and insightful comments on middle class Mexican society. Cuaron’s decision to stray from the traditional wrestling and comedy genres (per se) and show us the yuppie side of Mexico is a refreshing change of pace and the picture stands out amongst its American counterparts of the time.


Video:
The picture is correctly framed at 1.78:1 and it is an anamorphic transfer. Criterion is good enough to provide us with more information about the transfer itself, so I will pass this along: “Approved by director Alfonso Cuaron, this new high-definition digital transfer was created on a Spirit Datacine from the 35mm original camera negative. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, and scratches were removed using the MTI Digital Restoration System.” The picture is beautiful with deep blacks and good color saturation. Colors are accurate showing good differences between the flesh tones of the actors and crisp lines around objects. Cuaron and his Director of Photography Emmanuel Lubezki infuse the sets with a wide color palate that is reproduced beautifully in the picture: pay particular attention to the surroundings in Mateo and Teresa’s apartment, and the spiral staircase Tomas runs down. Cuaron comments on the color design in the “Making of...” doc in the bonus features, as specific intent was put into this aspect of the production. Detail is excellent in both the fore- and background and there is no smearing or collapsing of lines, such as the pattern in Tomas’ bathrobe. Edge enhancement was minimal to non existent. Occasionally, the picture exhibits a haze to it, and I’m thinking it was more the director’s intent than anything else. The film shows some age in the quality of the film stock, but overall, this is a great looking picture.


Audio:
I watched the disc with the Dolby Digital stereo track engaged. The soundtrack exhibits good stereo and panning effects, but I did notice there were a couple scenes where the panning effect did not keep up with the picture. The soundtrack resides in the mids and highs, which were accurate and clear. Instances of ADR are apparent throughout the movie. Criterion tells us, “The soundtrack was mastered at 24-bit from original 35mm Dolby LT/RT magnetic track and audio restoration tools were used to reduce clicks, pops, hiss, and crackle.” LFE’s were minimal but perked up in some of the musical cues.


Bonus Material:
Making Solo Con Tu Pareja (28:49): This is a brand new documentary shot by Criterion for this release. The Cuaron’s and Cacho discuss the movie, its influences and its impact. Alfonso still has a very warm spot for the movie and it clearly comes through here. Carlos is more flippant in his tales, but still interesting none the less. I would have liked to have seen some modern interviews with the women in the movie, or even any historical ones. Since this picture was so small, I’m assuming there was not behind the scenes material recorded during filming.

Short films: These two short films were made by the Cuarons in 1983 and 2000, respectively. Alfonso Cuaron’s Quartet for the End of Time (23:45)and Carlos Cuaron’s Wedding Night (5:04). Alfonso’s picture is about a depressed and indifferent guy who wanders around the city and lies around his apartment. That’s about as exciting as it gets. Some of Alfonso’s directing style is evident even at this early stage, but this is more of a student film than anything else. Carlos’ short is a cute little tale about two couples on a wedding night.

The theatrical trailer is also present.

Also included in the package is a 28 page booklet with an essay by Ryan F. Long, and assistant professor of Spanish at the University of Oklahoma. Long describes the history of the Mexican cinema and Cuaron’s place in it. There are also the notes Carlos Cuaron gave to Cacho as the background and history of Tomas. This is funny reading and well worth the time.

Conclusions:
Through no fault of our own, this overlooked picture finally gets the credit it deserves. It is a funny and sexy comedy that amazingly pokes fun at a deadly health epidemic. I was excited to see this early work from someone who has become one of my favorite directors. Criterion produces a nice set to introduce this picture to American audiences.
 

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