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Divine

Director: Arturo Ripstein

1997. English subtitles. Colour. Dolby stereo. 112 min


This bizarre black comedy is based on real events that happened in the 1970s but is set in a present-day village in the Mexican highlands, where members of a religious sect gather for the end of the world. Presiding over the New Jerusalem community of outcasts is ailing prophetess Mama Dorita (Katy Jurado, veteran star of Mexican and Hollywood movies) and wine-soaked priest and movie buff Papa Basilio (Francesco Rabal). Trouble erupts when the young Tomassa is chosen to succeed the dying Dorita. As new leader, Tomassa declares that only she may have sex with the chosen ones, which causes the other women to rebel. One of Ripstein’s most visually striking films, Divine also acknowledges the director’s debt to his mentor, Luis Buñuel. The references range from the presence of Rabal (the star of Buñuel’s Nazarin) to the title of one of the episodes, ‘The Golden Age’ (also the title of Buñuel’s first feature).
More significantly, the leaders of the religious sect exhibit the same solipsistic self-righteousness and self-delusion as many of Buñuel’s religious fanatics. But as a fully-fledged auteur, Ripstein is above all faithful to himself, and Divine is a rich and strange compendium of his recurrent themes. Plus Down to the Bone/Hasta los huesos, director Rene Castillo’s brilliant and macabre claymation film about a man’s arrival in the land of the dead, where he is greeted by smiling skulls and discovers that, barring some inconveniences, being dead is not so bad. (2001. Colour. 12 min.)

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