Canoa: A Shameful Memory Screen 88 of 6 reviews

Canoa: A Shameful Memory

1976

Canoa: A Shameful Memory Poster
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    Sight & Sound: Michael Atkinson
    April 28, 2017 | June 2017 Issue (p. 85)

    This self-knowing movie feels like Costa-Gavras, in his peak years, crafting a stew of The Ox-Bow Incident and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Except, crucially, it's all true, and so meticulous you could write your own police report about the real 1968 incident... Blunt and bloody, the movie is a piece of history itself, graphically delineating the era's collision course between autocratic power and generational discontent, a process that tore up Mexico in its own 'dirty war.'

  • ...The film isn’t engaging that perversity as much as it’s confounding easy or uncomplicated access to it. There’s little denying that Canoa‘s images of graphic violence inherently reward a certain morbid curiosity to witness atrocity or, more precisely, re-witness a past atrocity through a cinematic representation. Yet Cazals unpacks that interest by implicating representation itself as the central issue.

  • ...The film's ominous setting and unreliable narrators would be enough to make it a masterpiece of the suspense and horror genres. Its sense of anxiety, which reaches a peak in the scene described above, is augmented by the sinister fact that the lynchings depicted in Canoa actually took place, on September 14, 1968, just two weeks before the Tlatelolco mass¬acre, one of the most violent and widely condemned episodes of the twentieth century in Mexico.

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    Film Comment: Max Nelson
    March 03, 2017 | March/April 2017 Issue (p. 11)

    Gritty, realistic, and blunt, Canoa: A Shameful Memory proceeds with a kind of grim certainty toward its gruesome climax. It's also a clever act of displacement, shifting the blame for the persecutions it depicts from the government to a debased strain of the clergy... It's striking that Cazals managed to denounce the regime so forcefully without showing more of his hand.

  • The film is not always well served by the narrative device of the guide, but its climax—in which the villagers vent their fury and frustration with graphic gore—is truly frightening. Cazals indicts the priest, a figure too shadowy to be totally villainous, but one can also sense him fingering Mexico's corrupt, reactionary power structure.

  • Can't recall offhand the last film I loved so much at the outset and then turned against so violently. Sustaining the Our Town-ish direct-address conceit for the duration would admittedly have been quite a challenge, but I'd have loved to see Cazals try... Alas, the narrators abruptly vanish (making only a handful of brief subsequent appearances) after the future victims are formally introduced, and what follows couldn't be more drearily typical of the genre.

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