Sometimes movies or art are simple entertainment, riddled with surface layer jokes, basic emotional responses and simplistic tugging of heartstrings. We’re unfortunately inundated with these types of movies year after year and they continue to be presented with awards when the Globes or Oscars roll around. Then we have times when a film maker is exploring something deeper, touching on highly personal matters that have evolved through upbringing, cultural history or external factors. The things that make us who we are today as a society, whether they may good or bad. These films can be told with extreme artistic merit and button pushing imagery, for example when John Waters makes a statement on sexuality or gender roles.
With “Los Chidos,” filmmaker, musician and artist Omar Rodriguez Lopez is doing very much the same thing. He has wrapped an exploration around the nature of Latino male culture and its negative stereotypes, such as homophobia, classicism and misogyny around a bizarre, humorous and graphically explicit tale of a family who run a tire repair shop in Guadalajara, Mexico. It touches not only on the negativity of culture but also of religion, in this case Catholicism, and how women are overlooked in many of the ritual practices.
Los Chidos themselves are a family who live a selfish life of sloth, turning away even the hint of work as they sit in their garage watching television all day and gorging themselves on their mother’s famous tacos. Tacos made with the tenderest of meat and mixed with her special blend of mayonnaise and ketchup. Their cousin Rulo has recently married Alma, although at night when he’s not drugging her and leaving her to be taken advantage of by his friends, he’s dressing up as a woman to run off to his male lover.
The matriarch of Los Chidos believes in all her heart that every word of the bible is true and wishes nothing but heavenly grace for her family in the afterlife. With that comes her disbelief that her youngest boy could possibly be a homosexual, despite his machinations towards the more handsome males at their nightly drinking hole. Their lives are all upset when a gringo, Kim, comes rolling into their lives with a destroyed tire. Over the next couple of weeks Los Chidos and Kim become close friends and share a journey resulting in their own sorts of revelations, some stronger than others.
“Los Chidos,” however, never plays itself as a direct narrative. Rodriguez Lopez has creative a movie that challenges the viewer, not only in its obvious graphic nature (there are scenes of abuse, golden showers, fecalphilia, a dismembered penis, hints of incest and more) but also in his production of the film itself. The entire movie was re-dubbed in post and he plays with gender swapping of voices. It isn’t always obvious and at first it is quite jarring, but once you adjust, the effect succeeds in his intent to make it feel like an old Italian or Latin work of cinema. To assist in capturing this feel, Rodriguez Lopez utilizes several of Ennio Morricone’s scores throughout the film, several of which should be instantly familiar to any fans of the old spaghetti westerns. The entire package makes for a heady “what the f**k” kind of film that is certainly not for everyone, but the end result is actually quite funny. It’s an absurdist comedy that slashes its way through the psyche, bringing confrontation with expected reactions and forces the viewer to face their conceits.
The actors of “Los Chidos” were brought together by Rodriguez Lopez from a theater troupe in Guadalajara and they provide a fearless presence on screen. We are even treated to a glance at their actual act midway through the film when Los Chidos and Kim decide to head out to see a performance troupe, in one of their many moments of bonding and transformation. Kim Stodel, the single English speaking lead, of the same moniker, has been a long time collaborator with the director and in this film puts forth a charismatic, likable character. One that never really questions his situations but always seems content to go along with the insanity and never once does it feel disingenuous or confusing. Kim blends into the mash of madness like he’s part of the herd.
Certainly “Los Chidos” is not for everyone, but for those film fans that are unafraid to play with their expectations of narrative and who want to spend some time pondering intent in a fable representing something far deeper, they will certainly be rewarded. It’s a tough movie in some respects, but one that brings enough fantasy, humor, and oddity that it is like very few things ever put on screen and in today’s day and age that is something the cinematic world is direly lacking.