As Deadline continues to expand its footprint internationally, we launch International Critics Line as a way to incorporate regular reviews of the fine local-language films being made outside of America. These films always have served as a seed bed to break new directors and stars in Hollywood, and we intend to spend more time with them. Major awards-season and festival-launch films now will have a dedicated landing place on Deadline, along with some unsung gems that deserve a close look by our readers and films that have achieved outsized success on their home turf. We will catch up to some films that played the festivals — such as they were — in the pandemic, as we draw even with new releases. We start with Michel Franco’s Nuevo Orden.
Nuevo Orden (New Order)
Parasite seems like a mere hors d’oeuvre compared with the main course of societal upheaval served up by New Order (Nuevo Orden). Each of Mexican director Michel Franco’s three previous films — Daniel & Ana (2009), After Lucia (2012) and Chronic (2015), all of which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival — one-ups the last in depicting a dangerously ailing world society that can come to no good end, and this new one vividly and realistically depicts the sudden implosion of a society afflicted by class divides and gross economic inequity. It’s not a comfortable sit, and attention will be paid.
At a very tight 85 minutes, New Order, which won the Silver Lion grand jury prize (essentially second place, after Nomadland) at this year’s Venice Film Festival, gets down to serious business at once and never lets up for a second. After an opening montage of disturbing images and a glimpse of a hospital emergency that sparks major mayhem, attention shifts to wedding party underway for bride Marianne (Naian Gonzalez Norvind) at her parents’ opulent Polanco district home in Mexico City. The posh crowd is allowed to enjoy itself for a minute or two until a longtime family servant turns up to ask his former employers for some funds for another former worker who now needs emergency heart surgery. Unsurprisingly, the wealthy partiers are mostly white complexioned, the service staff mostly brown.
Not entirely heedless of the request, even though the woman last worked for the family seven years earlier, the rich folk come up with some $35,000 in cash, which the old worker claims is not nearly enough. In the meantime, there are disturbing signals of things going awry: Green water gushes from a bathroom faucet, and the quiet streets become jammed, preventing the timely arrival of the judge. Radio broadcasts report chaotic conditions throughout the city.
They aren’t kidding. Without a moment’s notice, the hired help pull out guns and indiscriminately shoot a few guests. The remaining hour is devoted to detailing the vicious coup, a violent takeover of the city by an extremely organized, heavily prepared and armed and revolutionary force that kills arbitrarily and often in a fiercely determined effort to rule the country. No one was prepared for this.
Franco’s portrait of the revolution is massively detailed and frighteningly credible. The military now is firmly in command and ruling at the point of a gun. Who controls the army at this point is unstated, but whoever does is extremely well prepared and ruthless, rounding up citizens, randomly killing for effect and intimidating defenseless citizens in arbitrary ways that terrify and leave no room for disobedience. Whether they’re on the right or left makes no difference — the physical result on citizens and society is the same.
Most of what follows falls into the category of the detritus of revolution, where anything, at least for a while, is permitted. Prisoners have numbers boldly imprinted on their foreheads, some are stripped naked, others raped or otherwise abused. High ransoms are paid, only to have the new authorities then demand more; some fork over and then are just shot. The usual questions spring to mind about what is worse — the old oppressors or the new ones taking their places. Be careful of the revolution you wish for.
By keeping his account short, ruthless and relentless, Franco scores a knockout akin to a boxer who just keeps relentlessly punching until his opposition folds from all the impact. More nuanced considerations of class inequity and potential improvements will have to wait for another day; this film, which is largely shot in close-ups, barely lets you breathe. Still, with all the class strife on view in recent times, most noticeably in the United States over the past year, New Order hits a raw nerve and arrives at a particularly impressionable time.
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