ROMA – An Appreciation by Martha P. Nochimson

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Roma is a two hour and fifteen minute, black and white film that meanders through urban, suburban, and rural Mexico in the 1970’s, by means of a sequence of long takes and ambient sounds. Poetic. Yes? And yet, in its own way, harsh. Relentlessly, with its Whitman-like, neo-realist long takes, and inclusively scanning panoramas, it strips us of all the defense mechanisms so routinely provided by genre films that get us through our fears that we mean little in the grand scheme of things. If you do not already see Hollywood as one immense defense mechanism, please permit me a moment to suggest why Roma makes clear that it is.

Alfonso Cuaron, the writer/director of Roma, has not previously rolled his cameras and sound equipment down this road not taken. Rather, he has built a reputation as an eclectic filmmaker who has helmed a diverse array of generic films: among them, an updated classic melodrama (Great Expectations, 1998), a children’s fantasy (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, 2004), and a dystopian sci-fi (Children of Men, 2006). As a writer, although he has written and directed a comedy (Y Tu Mama Tambien, 2001), he tends toward sci-fi marked visibly by generic conventions, for example, Children of Men, Gravity 2013, and a television series called Believe, 2014. Roma, a stunning update of non-generic neo-realist filmmaking, that grows out of his memory of his childhood nanny, marks a significant departure. And not only for Cuaron. You can count on one hand, maybe one finger, the number of neo-realist blockbusters. But blockbuster Roma is. It has rocked the international awards scene. Continue reading on EYE ON MEDIA.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Roma was selected as AWFJ’s Movie of the Week for January 25, 2019 and was honored by the Alliance of Women Film Journalists with 2018 EDA Awards for Best Film, Best Foreign Language Film, Best Director for Alfonso Cuaron, Best Cinematographer for Alfonso Cuaron.

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Martha P. Nochimson

Martha P. Nochimson’s ninth book, Television Rewired: The Rise of the Auteur Series will be published on July 15, 2019. Her earlier work includes The Passion of David Lynch: Wild at Heart in Hollywood; David Lynch Swerves: Uncertainty from Lost Highway to Inland Empire; and Dying to Belong: Gangster Movies in Hollywood and Hong Kong. She has taught at the Tisch School of the Arts (NYU), and she developed and chaired a film studies program for Mercy College. Currently, she is teaching at the David Lynch Graduate Program in Cinematic Arts. She has covered the New York Film Festival for 18 years, and has also covered the Istanbul International Film Festival and the Montreal Film Festival. She is a long time member of the Columbia University Seminar on Cinema and Interdisciplinary Interpretation. She writes AWFJ's EYE ON MEDIA blog.