El Cometa (1999) 




Directors:  Marisa Sistach, José Buil.

Starring:    Diego Luna (Victor), Ana Claudia Talancón (Valentina), Carmen Maura (Guadalupe or Lupe), Patrick Le Mauff (Guy), Arcelia Ramírez (Cordelia), Manuel Oledo (Procopio).

a young Mexican girl wants to get the collected money to San Antonio, Texas to support Madero in his fight against dictator General Porfirio Diaz




This is a love story between two young people.  It is set at the time of the Mexican Revolution.  The forces under Madero were trying to depose the dictator General Porfirio Diaz. A young man named Victor loves the new invention of moving pictures.  He learns from the projectionist, a Frenchman known as Guy, how to run the film.  The projector is a Lumiere, after the French brothers who invented it.  The film moves when the handle is turned around and around by the projectionist. Victor would like his father to buy the projector for his "tent show" and run the films for the people in the towns in Mexico.

Meanwhile, a young woman named Valentina helps her father run an underground press.  They print out pro-Madero news and anti-Diaz information. The police raid the place. Valentina is placed up in the attic along with the money collected for the support of  Madero and his cause.  The police kill one of the printing assistants and arrest her father.  The girl gets away.  She runs to see the French projectionist, Guy to ask him to hide her.   Guy tells Victor to take Valentina to the tent show owned by Victor’s father. Victor hides her in the family’s living quarters.

Cordelia performs a song in the tent show. She is the some times lover of Victor’s father.  Lupe is an older woman who was replaced by Cordelia as the main singer of the tent show.  She was also replaced by Cordelia as the lover of Victor’s father.  Victor’s dad tells Cordelia that he is taking the tent show north instead of going to Mexico City as originally planned.  When Cordelia hears this she almost immediately leaves the show.  She wants to become a success in the Mexico City.

Victor and Lupe are glad to see her go.  Guy arrives and he and Victor show Dad the camera. Victor learns that the equipment can also be used to film new scenes. Dad, however, wants no part of the new contraption. He just wants another singer. Guy gives the tent show the projector in return for the tent show taking Valentina north with them away from the police who will. surely follow her in order to get the money collected for Madero.

The policeman who killed one of the printing assistants, now interrogates Valentina’s father.  He gets carried away and beats the prisoner to death.  The murderer then finds a picture of Valentina in her father’s pocket watch.  He determines to find her and grab the Madero money.  

At night the tent show crew see Haley’s Comet in the sky.  They set up their show in a small town. Victor’s dad tells Lupe that the doctor told him he has less than a year to live.  Not very many people show up for the show.  Victor lets a boy and his friends into the show for free in return for some information on why the people did not attend the show.  Apparently, the local priest told the people not to attend the show. 

The kids like the movie show. Guy catches up with the tent show.  He tells Valentina that her father is dead.  She obviously is devastated.  Victors talks with the priest and tells him he will give some of the proceeds from the show to the church.   He also tells the priest that he will show a religious film. In return the priest must urge his parishioners to attend the show.  The priest agrees.

Victor tries to get Valentina to be the show’s new singer. She, however, is more interested in getting to San Antonio, Texas.  She wants to give the money collected for the Revolution to Madero in San Antonio.  She asks Victor to help her.  He agrees and she does sing at the show.  She is a big success.

Victor is happy with the money the show made.  But his father is very disappointed when he learns that Victor gave half the money to the church.  He explains to Victor that this means that the show was a flop since they did not make any money after expenses are deducted.  Dad adds that the film venture is finished.

The policeman who killed Valentina’s father tracks the tent show.  In the town he sees Valentina and Victor. He fires and hits Valentina, but the young people get away.  Valentina was saved by the Madero money she carries around her waist.  The bullet was stopped by one of the coins.

Heading to their next stop, along the road they find a man who has been crucified by the Diaz forces.  Victor gets some film of the man on the cross.  At the train station, Guy runs into the policeman looking for Valentina.  Guy misleads to policeman by telling him that Valentina was on the train that just departed from the station.

Victor gets drunk.  He asks Valentina for a kiss, but she will not kiss a drunk. So he starts to run away to teach her a lesson. He does not get very far before falling asleep in the grass. The next morning he returns to the wagons.

Victor’s dad teaches Valentina how to dance and sing at the same time. Guy catches up again with the tent show wagon convoy.  It is revealed that Valentina is a Madero partisan. This worries the crew because harboring a Madero supporter is dangerous.  The policeman is again on their trail. Guy is happy with the scenes that Victor shot with the camera.

At the next town Victor is able to photograph the police using excessive force to break up a peaceful gathering of townspeople who came to hear about the tent show.  The police mistakenly thought it was a revolutionary attempt to overthrow the government. Victor and Guy were taken down to the police station.

They are eventually released.  Upon his return to the wagons, Valentina showers Victor with lots of kisses to celebrate his safe return.  She does not want to lose Victor as she lost her father. Victor tells her that he loves her.

The pursuing policeman arrives in town. He attends the tent show along with the town’s mayor.  Victor shows film of the police busting the heads of the innocent towns people.  It creates quite a reaction from both the audience and the authorities.

One of the crew tries to steal the Madero money from Valentina. She tries to stop him without much success.  But the crew man is stopped by the pursuing policeman who had spotted Valentina at the tent show.  The policeman takes the money.  He is going to shoot Valentina when he is stopped by Victor’s father who holds a gun on the policeman.  The policeman leaves with the money, but Valentina grabs the gun and chases after him to get her money back.  The policeman is about to shoot Valentina when a couple of Madero supporting cowboys throw a lazo around the policeman and drag him in the dirt.  The cowboys then shoot and kill the policeman.

Valentina gets her money back.  The thieving crewman is fired from the tent show.  That night Victor’s father dies. The crew bury the tent show owner.

Lupe and Guy accompany Victor and Valentina to the U.S. border with Mexico. Lupe and Guy head for New Orleans while Valentina and Victor head for San Antonio to give Madero his money.

Victor says that he and Valentina delivered the money to Mr. Madero in San Antonio. He adds that towards 1914 he filmed Zapata and Villa riding into Mexico City to take over from the forces of dictator Porfirio Diaz.

Good movie.  It deals indirectly with Mexican history, but it deals with the important character of Madero.  Good acting by Diego Luna (Victor), Anna Claudia Talancón (Valentina) and Carmen Maura (Lupe).   The movie is "charming" and definitely kept my interest throughout. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


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