Saturday, August 31, 2013

Las Braceras (1981, Fernando Durán Rojas)

"Bracero" is the Spanish word for "Migrant Worker" or "Day Laborer". This movie is on YouTube in Spanish only, so I will try to figure the plot out as it evolves.

This film starts out in true Mexploitation fashion, at least in how the genre relates to its US counterpart, Blaxploitation, in that immediately we know this is about The Man bringing the people down. We have a night club scene, then some workers being smuggled in a tanker truck. The smuggled workers are captured by the border patrol. Back at the night club, Mexican burlesque legend Lyn May is doing a dance number. Afterward she meets with a man who's name sounds like "Jackie" (IMDb has no character notations). When immigration arrives, many of the patrons flee, including Jackie, who goes off with Lyn May to a back room. They pretend to be having a paid "transaction", but the officer pulls back the sheets to find they are both fully clothed. Jackie runs, the officer follows, Lyn May follows them. The officer and his partner catch up with Jackie and beat him and Lyn May unconscious. Jackie is taken away in an ambulance, and Lyn May is remarkably unharmed while seeing him off. Lyn May confronts one of the border patrol officers, but he shoves her to the ground, then gets in his car and leaves.

Burlesque legend and one of our heroes, Lyn May

Lyn May and "Jackie"

Next, we have two girls, Rosario and Marcella, packing suitcases near their worried mother. They are going on a trip, and mom is very concerned. After a presumably long bus ride, the pair stops at a hotel to meet a man named Moldanado, who appears to be a "coyote". things get a little confusing here... The man who was in the room when they arrive seems to tell them that either a) only one can stay or b) only one may go. The girls play the "pick a hand" game, and Marcella goes off to meet the man in the garage with her suitcase. He opens the trunk, puts her suitcase in, then motions for her to get in the trunk as well. She protests, but he laughs and peaceably convinces her it is necessary. He drives off and arrives at the border, where he bribes the official.

Marcella, Mama, and Rosario

Cut to a hospital room where we see Jackie is still alive, but in lousy shape. Lyn May and his daughter are there just in time to see him die. Next, some officials show up from immigration. They have an exchange of some sort, then we cut to Jackie's funeral, where he is buried with little (if any) ceremony.
Puentes, one of our heroes

Next, a short scene with our bad guys, the two border patrol guys.

Rosario now meets with the "coyote", who puts her in the trunk of his car and heads for the border. For some reason, he does not have his passport, and turns around. Why he did not just bribe the official is beyond me, save that it is a different agent, and he asked specifically for a passport when the other asked for "your papers". The coyote turns around. Things start looking shady as he pulls over, lets the girl out, and they start walking on an empty road...

I did not have this hat earlier. Do you like?
Back with la migra, they are beating up a guy in a hotel room. They appear to be shaking down people for information on the coyotes, and looking for their clients.

I'll call him "Evil Sheriff Lobo"
And I'll call him "Evil Colonel Potter"
Now we see Rosario swimming in a river. I think we know where this is going. Luckily, it seems our coyote is a decent guy. He waits while the girl crosses the river. Somehow he got across... I am a little confused. Rosario reaches the other side and is chased by a border agent, but gets to the coyote's car in time to get away.

Back at Lyn May's place, there is some arguing going on... We quickly return to the dance club where the immigration douche-bags are hanging out. They argue with the bartender, then leave; apparently they begin hatching a plot in the parking lot. As they leave, Rosario and her coyote arrive. They try getting help from the bartender. He takes them in the back, and (though my Spanish is rough, and the audio poor) clearly tells Rosario that her father is dead. So, I assume her father was "Jackie", as he is really the only character of any weight to die at this point.

Cut to what is clearly a large civic building. We find one of the immigration guys, not one from the evil duo, but the rather lawyer looking one from before named Puentes. He has a discussion with a guy, and seems a bit dejected afterward. The man he was talking to leaves, and in the parking lot we see the evil immigration duo in plain clothes... Cut to some field laborers.

Lyn May and Marcella are there, talking to a guy who is so lazy he could only be a foreman. No idea what they want from him, though money was discussed. Cut back to the dance club, we find Puentes talking to the bartender. The bartender seems uncomfortable having him around. Rosario is staying in one of the rooms at the bar, which are (I assume) for working girls. The lady of the house is not happy about this, but the bartender treats Rosario well.

He was much better in Super Bad

Back in the fields, it looks like Marcella has started working. She runs afoul of one of the foreman as she discusses something, probably related to crossing the border, with another worker. The foreman's attitude goes from angry to lascivious fairly quickly. Soon, two of the foremen start perving on Marcella. The evil immigration agents show up, looking for someone. They don't get anywhere. Cut to the bunk house where the women laborers live. Army cots line the walls... It looks like Lyn May is working here too; leaving behind her lucrative burlesque career.

You want some information? How about "kiss my ass, coppers"?

Back at the dance club, Rosario is waiting tables, and drawing all the pervert attention. That night, while she is in bed, a rather smarmy character enters her room, with clearly rapey intentions. She fights back, smashing the man's head with a lamp. In the morning, the bartender finds her gone. He finds the evidence of violence, and the girl gone.

Back at the fields, Lyn May and Marcella are called into the boss' office and offered drinks. Lazy foreman is there too. The boss and lazy foreman get a little too handsy, so Lyn May smashes a bottle over boss' head, and threatens lazy foreman with the remaining end. The pair run off, bolting the door from the outside as they leave.

Rosario is now walking along a lonely road. The two immigration assholes show up, and capture the girl. They let her go, in an attempt to make a game of things. They run her down, and Evil Colonel Potter gets all rapey. Rosario bites him. He throws her to the ground. Evil Sheriff Lobo behaves a little strangely after this. It is cleared up in this scene that Evil Colonel Potter is from the US and Evil Sheriff Lobo from Mexico. After the girl is knocked out Lobo gets a look of either remorse or desire... There is some overly swanky porn music in the background, which makes remorse seem unlikely, but that is how it looks.

Lyn May and Marcella are sneaking around the work camp. They catch a ride from a pickup truck driver... We see Puentes and another guy, in an office, watching footage of the evil immigration guys beating up, then gunning down, a group of laborers. Puentes receives a call about Rosario, as he soon is with her at the hospital. She is in rough shape, but happy to see him. Puentes is then at an office asking for something an old man describes as "impossible".

Lyn and Rosario's sister are back in the fields. Three immigration cars roll into the camp, and the laborers scatter. Many stop when the officers fire warning shots. Lyn and the Marcella stay hidden. Several workers are rounded up and taken away.

Back at the hospital, Puentes brings Rosario some clothes. There is a guard at the door, and Rosario seems concerned about that. Puentes appears to have a plan. Getting dressed, and donning the universal disguise of sunglasses, Rosario leaves the room while Puentes distracts the guard. The two drive off, eventually arriving at Puentes' house. Puentes makes an impassioned speech, with the words "mi madre" included, then he returns to work.

Both the evil immigration guys and Puentes are now looking for Marcella. She and Lyn May escaped the camp, and have discovered that a notice about the sister is in the paper, which seems to irritate the woman they are staying with. Soon Rosario, and Marcella are reunited.

With only seven minutes left in the film, we get the danger music, and see the evil immigration officers sculking around. They seem to have tracked the girls down... almost. They go to the place where Lyn May is staying, and gun the two women down; but Rosario and Marcella have been moved to Puentes place. Immigration catches on, and stake out Puentes' place in plain clothes. Only Puentes and Marcella were in the car. When they hear sirens they rush back to his house, where they find Rosario dead. The two flee, but the immigration assholes are waiting. Shooting the car, they cause it to wreck. Marcella is alive, but begins screaming "no!" It appears that Puentes is dead.
One last time at the dance club. The evil immigration guys show up, and Marcella is at one of the tables. She ducks into one of the back rooms. When the evil duo follows, she is waiting with a gun, and kills them both.

Good riddance.

I was pleasantly surprised by this one. There were some parts that were hard to follow, but nothing major. From the looks of the poster, I thought this would be some sort of Women in Prison film, which i am of course not opposed to, but I was rather pleased that it was so different from my expectation. I rather liked it, and may have to look into finding it with subtitles to get more of the nuance.

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