Arráncame la vida (Tear This Heart Out) (2008)





Director:     Roberto Snieder.

Starring:      Ana Claudia Talancón (Catalina Guzman),  Daniel Giménez Cacho (Andres Ascencio),  José María de Tavira (Carlos Vives),  Mariana Peñalva (Mercedes),  Irene Azuela (Bárbara),  Jake Koenig (Mike Heiss),  María Aura (Pepa),  Danna Paola (Lilia Ascencio - Age 12).

a general sets himself up as a dictator in the state of Puebla; under leadership of his brother President Camacho (1940-1946)



Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film. 


Puebla, Mexico, 1932.  As narrator a 14 year old girl named Catalina Guzman says that the year 1932:  "That year, many things happened in Mexico."  One of those things was when she met General Andres Ascencio in one of the cafes.  She sits outside with a group of her friends eating ice cream.  The general leans over and says all these people are a bunch of assholes.  Catalina goes along with him and says yes.  Catalina feels the meeting was somewhat strange because he is with the upper classes in Puebla, while she is the child of a campesino who now makes cheese. 

She has heard things about the general.  " . . .  Andres Ascencio, who became a general through luck and every brand of cunning short of being born into a name with a coat of arms."  He drops the group off in their neighborhood.  Her friend tells Catalina that the general is too old for her.  She also knows the general has had many different women and was a criminal and a madman. 

Soon the general is sitting at the campesino's table telling war stories.  They eventually came to regret inviting him into their family, "but that was many years later."  After dinner Catalina walks the general out and he uses the opportunity to give her a big kiss.  And soon enough she is off on a trip with the general. 

They go to a bungalow by the ocean, which Catalina has never seen before.   She is very exited to see the sea.  And at the bungalow she got "the fright of my life".  She knows virtually nothing about sex, but her boyfriend is going to show her how it's done.  (some nudity).  At night in bed, Catalina says she wants to feel something too, like Andres did.  She even asks him to teach her how to feel.  But all Andres cares about is going back to sleep.  Catalina feels frustrated and somewhat cheated. 

On the beach Andres talks about how most of the military men around think that Pallares is going to take the governorship of Puebla.  He believes that this Pallares guy is an idiot.   When she expresses her opinion on the subject, he asks her who asked her to state her opinion?  But Catalina is spirited and won't give up. 

Catalina comes home late.  Her parents do not scold her at all or ask her questions. 

Catalina goes to a fortune teller.  She tells the fortune teller:  "I want to know how to feel."  The woman tells her she is far too young for that.  She even tells Catalina to get out.  Catalina is confused and concludes that the woman can't feel anything either.  The woman is shocked when Catalina asks her so you can't feel anything either?   Since Catalina is so bold, the woman tells her how a woman "feels" and even demonstrates how to masturbate.

At home Catalina's father observes that they haven't seen the general for awhile.  Catalina says he is too busy trying to beat Pallares. 

The general just shows up early one day and tells Catalina that they are getting married.  So he wants to speak with her parents.  She is a bit miffed that he just assumes she is going to consent to the marriage.  He just gives her a peck on the lips and tells her to wait in the car. 

The general takes the whole family done to the marriage office and they get married.  There are even more hints that he is going to be the one who wears the pants in the family.  He says her signature as his wife "makes you mine".  Catalina doesn't like the phrase, but doesn't actively protest against it.  At he wedding breakfast the general orders tamales and chocolate for everyone.  Catalina says she wants an orange juice because she always has orange juice for breakfast.  The general objects that she's upsetting the order of things, she protests to her father and dad tells the waiter to bring her some orange juice.  This now leads to a rebuke of his father-in-law saying that dad is no longer in charge of his precious Catalina.

The newly weds go out riding horses.

Sitting down for dinner men with an arrest warrant arrive to grab Andres.  They take him away.  He is accused of murder.

Outside the house Andres tells the lieutenant to notify Colonel Campos and Mr. Mike Heiss of what has happened. 

The next day in the newspaper there is the headline that Andres Ascencio Dominguez is behind bars accused of killing Quirino Mendez.  When Catalina goes to cooking class many of the women in the class shun her.  Catalina goes home crying.  Andres comes in and they hug and kiss.  (some nudity) 

Out riding again, Andres tells Catalina that he is going to build a dam here that will flood the valley.  Catalina doesn't like this idea.  Her husband says:  "What this country needs is progress."  She asks him what business does he do with this Mr. Mike Heiss?   He tells her he doesn't talk business with his wife. 

Walking home Catalina sees a woman get out of the limousine with her husband and she sees that they both kiss each other.  She is really mad about this and confronts Andres, but he is not going to admit anything. 

Catalina is pregnant.  She sees an old male friend of hesr and they talk for awhile.  They go inside the shop and they kiss. 

1935.   Catalina gives birth to a boy who they name Checo.  Her husband now brings in two children from his first wife of which Catalina knew nothing.  He walks in with the boy and a girl and says he announces his candidacy for the governorship of the state of Puebla.   He introduces Octavio and Lilia to his wife.  One of Lilia's first questions is can she call Catalina "mom"?  Catalina says:  "If you want to." 

Later Catalina asks her husband if there are any other women and children she doesn't know about?   He says it's just these two children "for now".  He tells her a little about his first wife.  He says she used to help him sell milk from the farm.  She died in a typhus epidemic.  Catalina asks why didn't he tell her about this before?  His answer:  "Because I didn't feel like it."

It was only later that Catalina learned the truth about the first wife.  She found out that Andres at that time had a good job working under Victoriano Huerta, the traitor of the Mexican Revolution.  And the first wife is alive and well in Veracruz. 

Catalina travels with her husband all over the state of Puebla asking for votes.  His message was that Mexico needed education and progress.   

And Andres becomes the governor of Puebla.  One of his first acts is to appoint his wife to the position of president of public welfare.  Catalina asks her husband not to put her in the public welfare position.  He says this is what first ladies do and besides he will have his other daughter Adriana come to help her.  What?   Yes, she is 15 years old and is moving in with them.

Catalina and others visit the orphanages.  She said things were so bad there that she wanted to fire all the staff.  When she tells her husband, he just says she's exaggerating and adds that he won't give her a cent more for the orphanages.  She protests that the children are starving and live covered in urine.   And the insane women sleep on the floor.  She keeps complaining until he agree to send some cash for the orphanage.

A woman comes over to speak with Catalina about her house on third street that the general wants to buy.  Mrs. Gonzales says the house is not for sale at any price.  The governor told her husband that he would much rather buy the house from him rather than from his widow.  Truthfully, Catalina doesn't know anything about this matter.

She does, however, speak to the general about the matter.  He refuses to say what he wants with the house saying:  "Why do you care?  I want it for a reason." 

1938.  Catalina has her hair cut straight.  She shows her haircut to her father and says people will laugh at her now.  Her father asks her why does she care what people think of her hair as long as she is happy.  Ah, but the problem is that she is not happy. 

Catalina learns from a woman friend that her father is the governor's representative in his business with Julian.  She almost immediately grabs her husband and tells him:  "I don't want my father to get involved in your business."  He tells her to calm down and he will see what can be done, but, please, she must keep looking impeccable for their guests. 

At a dinner party the governor talks about the fact that there has been a few riots caused by peasants who don't want the dam built.  His wife speaks up and says what the campesinos wanted were the lands next to the dam.  One of the wealthy ladies at the dinner table thanks the governor for what he has accomplished.  She says:  "We haven't seen so much progress since the times of Don Porfirio."  [Don Porfirio was the dictator the Mexican Revolution got rid of.]

After the dinner the governor tells his wife that he feels like slapping her face.  She was flirting with the man to her left at the table.  He says she acted like a goat in heat wanting to have sex with any man.  And he is also mad about her speaking up for the demands of the campesinos.  And he is especially mad at this, because Martin Cienfuegos was sitting at their dinner table.  She counters with her demand that her father be out of the governor's businesses.  He says he will remove her father from his business dealings.  Narrator Catalina says:  "After that small triumph, my failures began."

Catalina is kept out of the loop, but she was talking to so many visitors with problems, that she started to put together the pieces of some examples of her husband's nasty dealings.  A woman says that her father went to the movies three days ago and still hasn't come home.  The woman says there was a disagreement between the governor and her father.  She now asks Catalina to ask the governor about her father. 

Catalina asks about the missing Mr. Maynes.  She says Mr. Maynes was winning a lawsuit against Andres and Andres couldn't pay him off.  He dismisses her concern saying that the matter is of such little interest to him that he's not going to worry about it at all. 

At the beauty salon, Catalina learns that Mr. Maynes was found in a basket hacked to pieces.  She decides to take a bus ride to her hometown.  When she arrives it is nighttime already.  And pulling up to her is her chauffeur.  She tries to ignore him, but then she gets into the car asking the driver to take her to the home of her parents.  The chauffeur has his orders, however, to drive her back home.

Catalina arrives home.  Her husband's shirt has blood stains on it.  She asks him what happened?  Apparently, an assassination attempt was made but failed.  Captain Rojas, however, was killed.  Andres says they are after him because they feel he is to close with Aguirre.  He adds that he had nothing to do with the death of Mr. Maynes.  Then who did kill the man?  Andres is tired of this line of questioning and tells his wife to disrobe. 

The next day the headline in the papers is about the frauds and crimes of two cheerful friends, Andres Ascencio and Rodolfo Campos.  Andres tells his wife that he is going to be the President of Mexico.  She tells him:  "I want to leave."  Catalina says she is no longer attracted to Andres.  He tells her that she can't walk away from him now when he needs her to help him become president. 

A man named Fito or Gordo comes to see Andres.  After he leaves, Andres tells his wife that Aguirre chose to run Fito for the presidency.  With great bitterness he says:  "My compadre, the idiot, president of Mexico."  But Fito has offered him a position in the cabinet. 

Two days later the editor of the paper Avante was found dead.  And members of the party had to "save the revolution" by stealing the ballot boxes where Fito was losing.  The opposition candidate had to leave Mexico.  Congress declared El Gordo's landslide victory. 

Mexico City, 1941.  Catalina's father dies and Catalina becomes quite a wreck. 

Catalina goes into a large theater to listen to some orchestra music.  The conductor asks her who let her in?  She says she's a journalist and wants to interview him.  He says:  "Unbelievable."  He asks her to sit way in the back where she won't be a distraction for his orchestra.  Catalina moves back there. 

Andres and Catalina are eating at a restaurant when Carlos comes in with some of his friends.   He comes over to the couple and Andres introduces him to his wife.  Catalina says she snuck into the theater to listen to the music.  Andres says that in the war Carlos' father was his superior officer.  They have a toast to their meeting again.  Andres says that Carlos isn't keeping very good company.  At that Carlos says his friends are waiting for him and he excuses himself from the table.  Andres tells Catalina about his disgust that Carlos is hanging out with Rafael Cordera, a leader of the workers.

The next day she goes back to the theater.  As narrator she comments:  "I was unfaithful long before I laid a hand on Carlos Vives."

Coming out of the theater the chauffeur wants to pick Catalina up, but Carlos says they are going for a walk.  The chauffeur says he is not going back without the lady.  So now Catalina tells him to wait here because they are going for a little walk.  They walk to a night club where lots of people are dancing.  There she meets some of Carlos' friends.  After dancing and drinks, the couple starts walking back to her limousine.  He indirectly criticizes her for being with such a bad man like her husband.  Catalina gets insulted and jumps into the back seat of the limo without saying goodbye. 

Andres and Catalina both attend the public performance of the orchestra.  The last song the orchestra plays is "Celito Linda", the song that her father always sang to her to cheer her up.  She becomes very emotional thinking of her father.  After the event, some politicians grab Andres to talk with him.  Now alone, Carlos goes over to talk with Catalina.  She tells him:  "Thank you, you made me cry."    One of Carlos' political friends comes over, but won't say much of anything in front of Catalina.  Carlos tells him:  "The lady knows her husband is a national disgrace."  Now the political talk begins, but doesn't last long. 

Carlos takes Catalina to his apartment.  There they start kissing immediately.   Then they have sex.  (some nudity)  He tells her that he loves her and they kiss again.  Just then there is a knock at the door.  (some nudity)  It's the chauffeur saying:  "The general is asking for his wife."  Catalina comes to the door fully dressed. 

Carlos plays the piano while a very talented woman singer sings for the general's crowd of friends.  The singer notices that Carlos and Catalina are in love and she mentions it to the couple. 

The next day the general asks Catalina what did Cordera and Carlos speak about.  He is trying to use her as a spy, but her answers are too vague to be helpful.  He then directly asks her about Cienfuegos.   She says nothing important was said between Carlos and Cordera. 

1943.  At Carlos' apartment, Catalina asks him to show her how to play the piano.  Later they have sex. Catalina says she is 28 years old and is tired of sneaking around.  She says she wants to be in control of her life.  In fact, she says:  "I want to live with you."  But she and her husband are going to Puebla for the weekend.  (brief nudity)   He tells her that he is giving a concert in Cholula and Cordera.  Cienfuegos and the people from the CNC are coming.  [Cholula is a city and district located in the center west of the state of Puebla, next to the city of Puebla de Zaragoza, in central Mexico that is best known for its Great Pyramid.]

In Cholula Catalina speaks with her step-daughter.  She asks about Javier who was supposed to be the love of her life.  The daughter says "Guillermo is nice."  Mother tells her that the fellow is a son of a bitch.  He was stringing Georgina along for years and now he leaves her to be with Catalina's step-daughter.  She says as the daughter of the general, doesn't she realize that she is being used as part of a business deal?  Later Catalina tells the general that she will not permit her step-daughter being forced to marry someone she doesn't love.  The general says that his daughter will choose her partner by herself. 

Carlos and Catalina sneak away for some private time together.  They go see a very ornate church.  There Catalina pretends she is a bride walking up the aisle to marry Carlos.  They hug and kiss until two elderly women scold them for doing this inside the church.  The couple virtually runs out of the church.  They drive to a field of orange flowers and make love on the ground there.  Carlos asks her to leave Andres, but she knows what might happen to both herself and Carlos if she did. 

Carlos attends a dinner with Catalina and Andres with another couple present.  Carlos comes out and tells Andres:  "The era of military men and caciques like yourself is over.  The Revolution is over."  The general excuses himself saying he and his wife have some urgent business to attend to.  He takes her into a bedroom and says she is going to spent the afternoon with him in bed.  He adds:  "Because as a spy, you're worthless and you're starting to like the role of girlfriend too much."  He has sex with his wife. 

In the evening she goes to the fair to meet Carlos and her two children.  When she arrives her son and daughter tell her that they took Carlos away at the point of a pistol.  She confronts her husband who is with some of his friends playing cards.  He tells her not to worry about Carlos, he'll be back.  But Catalina is very worried. 

The maid is the one who delivers the bad news to Catalina.  They found Carlos' dead body.  Catalina demands to be taken to where the body is.  She, her husband and others go down to see the body. The body is sprawled out on the floor of a building.  She sits down beside him.  Catalina cries over the body. 

Catalina goes back to the fortuneteller and asks her does she remember her?  Of course.  The woman asks Catalina what does she want?  "I don't want to feel anymore."  The fortuneteller says that she will give her some herbs that will heal the pain of her soul.   Catalina will be able to make a tea out of the herbs.  She warns Catalina, however, not to drink too much of the tea.  The heart of a woman who had three cups of this tea just stopped and nobody knew why.   (Hint, hint, nudge, nudge.)

The newspaper carries the news that Mexico has declared war on Germany.  The general remarks:  "El Gordo always has Cienfuegos by his side."  He says the tea is the only thing energizing him these days.

Catalina tells her step-daughter it seems such a waste for her to marry that idiot, Memito.  The step-daughter says she is doing this because she doesn't want anything to happen to Javier like it happened to Carlos. 

It's a huge wedding with lots and lots of guests.  Lilia may not be marrying her true love, but she shows a streak of independence just like Catalina.  She chooses to drive a certain car out of the wedding reception area against the command of her husband.  Andres puts his hand on his son-in-law's shoulder and says:  "Now that's a real woman."

Andres tells his wife that he now has the political backing for his run for the presidency from CROM.  [The Confederación Regional Obrera Mexicana (CROM) (Spanish: "Regional Confederation of Mexican Workers") is a federation of labor unions in Mexico.]  He adds:  "Cienfuegos is screwed."  He also says that he couldn't have done it without Catalina's help for, as he says, she is smart as a whip.

Catalina is so mad that she whips up a strong tea made from the deadly herbs.

The next morning Andres tells her she has to go with him to some meeting.  He waits by the limousine.  Catalina tells the maid to go down to the car and tell him she is not coming.  At the dinner he collapses.  The doctor visits him in his bed at home.  Catalina plays the role of the loving, dutiful wife.  Andres speaks of death and where he wants to be buried.

Andres dies and the people say he had a weak heart.  "And everyone seemed satisfied."

At the burial, Catalina cries and pulls away from the burial ceremony.  She looks out over the landscape and says:  "I was alone.  With no one to order me around.  I felt free.  So many things I wouldn't have to do anymore; so many I wanted to do.  I was alone.  Enjoying my future.  Almost happy."



A big problem historically for Mexico has  been the caudillo, the politician that rules by military force.  For most of the country's history Mexico was controlled by caudillos who seized power by force and ruled by force rather than getting power the democratic way through the electoral process.  There have been quite a few Mexican films dealing with the caudillos.  As shown in this film, the caudillo is ruthless, violent, arbitrary and all powerful.  Everyone has to do things his way or they will wind up in a ditch somewhere dead.  This certainly puts a damper on freedom in Mexico.  This history is also responsible for much of the corruption that is rampant in Mexico.  The film gives a good look at an actual caudillo in action in the state of Puebla, Mexico.  The real caudillo was Maximino Ávila Camacho.  None of the names used in the book or the movie are the real names. 

The beautiful and sexy Ana Claudia Talancón was very good in the role (Catalina Guzman),  Daniel Giménez Cacho was great as the evil caudillo (Andres Ascencio) and José María de Tavira was very good as Catalina's boyfriend (Carlos Vives).

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


Historical Background:



1891  --  Maximino Ávila Camacho was born in Teziutlán, a small town in Puebla.  He had two younger brothers, Manuel and Rafael, one of which became the President of Mexico.

Both Maximino and Manuel fought in the Guerra Cristera.  Maximino was know for burning towns down and killing prisoners by firing squads. 

He became a three-star general.

1934-1940  --  the reign of General Lázaro Cárdenas as President of Mexico.   He introduced cardenismo.   This was characterized as the alliance of the state with the workers and peasants.  In the country, the cooperative displaced the estate as the basic unit of agricultural production.  The petroleum and railway industries were nationalized.  He was good friends with Manuel Camacho.

Maximino became the boss of his state of Puebla. 

1937-1941  --  he was governor of Puebla.  He gathered all the power in the state to himself.   His brother Manuel became the Secretary of War.

Maximino was known for his carousing, womanizing and violence against his enemies.  Other adjectives used about him are ruthless, autocratic and arrogant. 

1937  --  the University of Puebla was legally established, at the initiative of General Maximino Avila Camacho.

1940-1946  --  the reign of Manuel Camacho as President of Mexico. 

He served as Secretary of Communications and Public Works in his brother's Cabinet.

They say that Maximino's arrogance reached its upper limits when he proclaimed that he would be the Next President of Mexico because as the brother of the President, he had the right to be his successor. 

1945  --  the dominant political party in Mexico, the PRM, prepared to nominate a candidate for the 1946 presidential elections.  Maximino was determined to be that candidate.  And he swore that if the party chose Miguel Alemán Valdés as the candidate, he would kill him. 

1945 (February 17)  --  Maximino dies of a heart attack.  His death was seen as suspicious, but nobody really investigated the matter.  The PRI nominated Miguel Alemán Valdés as their presidential candidate. 

1946  -- Manuel Camacho changed the name of the Party of the Mexican Revolution (PRM) to the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).



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