27 June 2007 | whatsupomar
Mexican "Camille" Disappoints
Beautiful María Félix was the ultimate "femme fatal" of Mexican cinema and it was unavoidable that she'd play Marguerite Gautier at some point in her career. The idea is not far-fetched except that director Roberto Gavaldón wanted a totally different "Camille" and he commissioned a script that would be both original and faithful to the original "Lady of the Camellias" by Alexandre Dumas, Jr. Of course, you would need a very creative writer, or group of writers, to achieve such a task so Mr. Gavaldón and producer Gregorio Wallestein decided to do it themselves. To keep within commercial parameters they also hired writer Edmundo Báez, famous for hallucinating all those scripts for Libertad Lamarque tearjerkers. The results are so confusing that it's hard to tell if you are watching a serious film or somebody is playing a joke on you. Let me give you the improbable basic plot.
Camellia (María Félix ) is a celebrated stage actress achieving great success playing the central character in "The Lady of the Camellias" at a local theater. However her private life mirrors the part she is playing on stage, a lost woman who sells her love in order to maintain her lifestyle. In the play, she drinks like a sailor while in "real life" Camelia is a drug addict. In "Lady of the Camellias" Marguerite falls for Armand, a socialite who could be her salvation. Backstage, Camelia falls for Rafael (Jorge Mistral), a famous bullfighter that wants to take her out of the vicious circle she is in and make her happy. Both Marguerite and Camelia know they are doomed.
Confusing? You bet! Especially when sometimes Camelia, playing Marguerite, utters dialog on stage that leaves you wondering if it's the real thing or the script. The only relevant thing in this debacle is the reference to drug addiction, namely heroin, very rare in Mexican films of the 1950s. Also a couple of love scenes between gorgeous Maria and strikingly handsome Mistral have a certain value from an erotic perspective. Everything else can be painlessly trashed out and forgotten for everybody' sake. If you like the subject, stick with the Garbo-Cukor 1936 version "Camille"