Saturday, July 3, 2021

Lo Que Se Ve No Se Pregunta: The 5 Films of Juan Gabriel.

On August 28, 2016, Mexican music icon Juan Gabriel passed away. His death was a big shock for many people around the globe since his music was very much adored. Juan Gabriel's songs were about happiness, romance, heartbreak & sorrow. All of these songs are full of emotion that you feel what he was singing about. You're not just listening to the song, you are in the song. You are the person he is singing about. Even when the songs are about himself, you are put into his shoes for the entire durations of the songs. That's how powerful & good these epic songs are.

Juan Gabriel was very open about his past & life in his younger days. He spoke of his struggles & humble beginnings, but people had often wondered more about him rather than hear the already-familiar origins. Who was he dating? Why be feminine & flamboyant rather than masculine like most Mexican male musicians? In 2002, reporter Fernando del Rincón asked Juan Gabriel if he was gay and naturally the response to that was very Juan Gabriel like (vague & flippant): “Dicen lo que se ve no se pregunta, mijo.” (What is seen should not be asked, son.”) The world will never know if Juan Gabriel was gay or not since he never gave a real answer to the repetitive-asked question, but even then his fans have continued to admire him. His sexual orientation didn’t matter at all. For those who believe he was gay, they too admire him a lot and especially since he broke the machismo barrier with his expressive flamboyancy & charisma. A true inspiration for the Latin LGBTQ community. 

As I went through reviews & articles of Juan Gabriel’s 5 films, I noticed they all equally point to how the romantic relationships in the movies were not very believable or just lacking of. As I watched his 5 starring roles, I saw what these writers had meant and this lead to the yet again question: “was he gay?”, but rather following what others had to say, I felt that Juan Gabriel was aromantic or asexual. That is, in the movies at least (not his real life). I mean, sure he was singing a lot of romantic songs and had his share of girls interested in him (in the movies), but we can still feel romantic & we can still express romanticism, but not ever really go through with it for any reason given. In the 5 films, he never really lands with anyone at the end, with the exception of El Otro Lado Del Puente. But even then, it’s quite minor & that movie is more focused on Mexican-American heritage rather than romance. 

And here are the 5 films that Juan Gabriel had starred in the late 70’s and early 80’s. I will speak of what they’re about, if they’re good or bad and go into partial detail in the relationships Juan Gabriel had in these movies. I also must note that Juan Gabriel’s movies are vaguely spoken of now a days. It seems the movies have withered just as other Mexican films have and with my duty here at Trash-Mex, I’m going to preserve them & make them be remembered & appreciated again. After all, Juan Gabriel deserves some recognition in Mexican Cinema because his films differ & stand out than most other musician films. 

Nobleza Ranchera (1975)

During the 1970’s, film producer Rogelio Agrasanchez was on a high role because he was putting out plenty of profitable Mexican films with a great set of casts & crews, so him putting the newly popular musician Juan Gabriel in a movie was a no brainer because this was going make him big money. Juan Gabriel by 1975 was a star and just released his 4th album “Con El Mariachi Vargas De Tecalitlan”. A few songs from this mariachi/ranchera album are featured in Nobleza Ranchera and the most popular & well-known song “Se Me Olvido Otra Vez” is featured in a great, memorable scene. 

In Nobleza Ranchera, a young man named Luis Alberto lives & works with his dotting grandmother (Sara García) in a ranch owned by a Don Fernando (Carlos Lopez Moctezuma). Luis Alberto spends all his days working & goofing around alongside the other helping hands of the ranch played by comedic actors Eleazar García “Chelelo” & Roberto “Serapio” Montufar and it all seems typical up until Don Fernando arrives with his 2 lovely daughters that ultimately compete to be with Luis Alberto. When a family secret of the past is revealed, Luis Alberto is left to wonder who to trust & what will life be like next. 

I can’t say I dislike Nobleza Ranchera nor can I say I like it a whole bunch either. Nobleza Ranchera is just one of those movies that’s just kind of around to watch on a very lazy day during the summer. The plot is quite flat & not all that interesting either since it is typical old ranch betrayal stuff that we’ve seen so many times before already. Juan Gabriel’s character Luis Alberto is involved in a love triangle between two sisters (played by Veronica Castro & Sonia Amelio), but ultimately he ends up with none of them and he seems to not even care about either sister aside from kissing them both a couple of times & singing songs to them (or around them that is). The main focus in Nobleza Ranchera is strictly on Alberto’s ranch life & family. Two girls wanting to be with him? Meh. 

Watch Nobleza Ranchera for free on Tubi 

En Esta Primavera (1979)

2 years after Nobleza Ranchera, Juan Gabriel left the hot & sticky ranch life in Weslaco, Texas brought on by Rogelio Agrasanchez and now has met up with director Don Gilberto Martinez Solares in Mexico City for a new story to tell. 

Juan Gabriel plays himself here, but a very fictionalized version. His love interest is played by the now grown Spaniard child actress Estrellita. Estrellita plays a college student who gets to interview Juan Gabriel for a writing piece she's doing and with a sort of twist turn of events, they fall in love with each other and this pisses off another woman in Juan Gabriel's life and a certain jealous ex-boyfriend as well.

En Esta Primavera often drags out a lot. There's a lot of talking and the characters aren't even all that interesting either. Once we do get to more intriguing scenes, it just goes by quick and then next you know, the movie is over. The movie isn't bad, but not good either. Is it any less good than Nobleza Ranchera? I feel they're about the same, but at least with Nobleza I was slightly more kept attentive towards. Not even famous comedic actor Ramon Valdes' peculiar small appearances could save this movie.

Del Otro Lado Del Puente (1980)

This was the first Juan Gabriel movie I ever watched and I really favor this one the most. Juan Gabriel here plays a young chicano named Alberto Molina who lives in East Los Angeles and gets a deep glimpse into his heritage—the discriminations & struggles of the many Latinos in LA. He also just happens to fall for 2 girls at the same time! One is a privileged white girl who seems to fetishize him and the other girl is a chicana who’s cholo brother “Jimmy Joe” (Valentin Trujillo) is getting help to stay off the streets by Alberto’s older brother who works in a street gang police division. 

I highly recommend this movie since it’s very intriguing & goes deep into the chicano culture of that time & place. There’s also great music in the movie of course which consists of “Marisol”, “Nadie Baila Como Tu” and the movie finishes off with the soothing ballad “Me Gusta Bailar Contigo” Where Juan Gabriel sings & dances with gorgeous actress Ana Laura Maldonado. Their chemistry in the movie is surprisingly great & even believable despite it being focused so very little.  

El Noa Noa (1981)

El Noa Noa is Juan Gabriel’s most personal movie alongside Es Mi Vida (1982) since they both tell the humble beginnings & struggles of Juan Gabriel and both are directed by Gonzalo Martinez Ortega. Juan Gabriel plays himself in both movies and even uses his real name for the role. I also have to note both movie titles are derived from songs of his with the same name. “El Noa Noa” is a catchy pop song about having fun at the real-life nightclub/bar in Juarez that Juan Gabriel began singing in. “Es Mi Vida” is a crooner style song which is like Frank Sinatra’s “My Way”, but with a much more positive sound & far more catchy as well. 

El Noa Noa opens with a young lady named Mercedes (Meche Carreño) entering the El Noa Noa (the former bar now turned into a discotheque) whom meets with the owner and they both reminisce on their now successful friend Alberto. Aspiring musician Alberto meets Mercedes at El Noa Noa where she works there as a bar girl. Alberto & Mercedes right away click as friends (never romanticized) and both spend their evenings together talking about their struggles and Alberto of course breaks into song as a drunken Mercedes sits alongside him. Alberto is given a chance to be heard at a record company in Mexico City, but he’s hesitant about giving this a shot since he feels he will be doomed from it, but with the encouragement of his family & friends, he takes that trip out to Mexico City after all. 

El Noa Noa is an intriguing autobiographical movie. It’s almost eerie to see Juan Gabriel playing himself here and having to relive his younger days all over again. But even so, it’s very interesting and Juan Gabriel performs some amazing songs in the movie such as: “Busca Un Amor”, "He Venido a Pedirte Perdón” and one of his most famous songs ever: “Yo No Nací Para Amar”

Es Mi Vida (1982)

The follow-up to El Noa Noa. Although it almost feels like it’s trying to be its own movie rather than a sequel.

Alberto has had no luck in Mexico City and is left to sleep on the streets and to make matters worse, he’s falsely accused of a robbery to a man who just happens to be the warden of a prison. Alberto is then locked up and as he struggles with life behind bars, he reminisces of life back in Juarez and to make the movie more artistic & deep, we are given flash-forward scenes of Alberto now a successful singer performing & recording. We see these future glimpses as Alberto deals with so much bullshit in prison. It’s so peculiar & so very depressing. 

Es Mi Vida is a moody watch, but intriguing as well. This would also be Juan Gabriel’s most serious movie since it doesn’t ever get quirky or innocent. We are literally taken into Juan Gabriel’s life behind bars and see the struggles he had to actually face just right before his rise to stardom began. How Juan Gabriel had the strength to relive this horrendous part of his life is beyond me, but it is much appreciated since we learned so much about him and even take in some hope & inspiration for our own lives.