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When an eager youth illegally crosses the U.S./Mexican border to find a new life in the promised land--where he must prove himself to be the "man of his family"--what awaits him is heartbreak and exploitation.
For more about Alambrista and the Alambrista Blu-ray release, see Alambrista Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on April 16, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Director: Robert M. Young
Writer: Robert M. Young
Starring: Domingo Ambriz, Trinidad Silva, Linda Gillen, Jerry Hardin, Edward James Olmos, Ned Beatty
» See full cast & crew
Alambrista Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, April 16, 2012
Winner of the inaugural Camera d'Or Award at the Cannes Film Festival, Robert M. Young's "¡Alambrista!" (1977) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion. The supplemental features on the disc include original trailer; video interview with actor Edward James Olmos; Robert M. Young's documentary film "Children of the Fields" (1973) and a video interview with the director; and a new audio commentary. The disc also arrives with a leaflet featuring an essay by film historian Charles Ramirez-Berg. In Spanish and English, with optional English subtitles where necessary. Region-A "locked".
Shortly after the birth of his daughter, Mexican farmer Roberto (Domingo Ambriz, Walk Proud) realizes that he will no longer be able to feed his family. He talks to his wife and the two agree that it would be best if he looks for work somewhere up North. Roberto is convinced that in six months he would be able to save enough to occasionally have his wife cook a meal with chunks of meat in it and send his daughter to a good school when she grows up.
While on the road, Roberto meets other wannabe immigrants who are heading up North. Some carry small bags with food, clothes and pictures, others carry only plastic water bottles. Occasionally, they share their food with him.
On the border, immigration agents arrest most of the travelers. Roberto manages to escape and soon after joins a new group of Mexicans. They lead him to a tomato field where a much bigger group of migrant workers are already working hard. Shortly after Roberto is told how to separate the good tomatoes from the bad ones and where to load them, the tomato field is raided by immigration agents. Roberto manages to escape.
In a nearby trailer park, another Mexican immigrant with a green card teaches Roberto how to "walk and talk like the gringos". Eventually the two hit the road, but a couple of state troopers go after them. Once again, Roberto manages to escape.
Barely able to stand on his feet, Roberto ends up in Stockton, where a friendly waitress (Linda Gillen) takes him to her home after he collapses on the street. Even though she does not speak Spanish and he does not speak English, the two become close. But Roberto is forced to run again after he and the waitress go dancing in a bar frequented by immigrant workers. This time, however, his luck fails him - he is arrested and quickly deported to Mexico.
But immediately after Roberto crosses the border, a coyote and a shady cowboy offer to smuggle him and a group of desperate men and women back into the U.S. All they need to do is agree to work on one of the cowboy's watermelon fields in Colorado. Determined to earn the money his family needs, Roberto decides to enter the U.S. illegally for a second time.
Robert M. Young's ¡Alambrista! (The Illegal) is a simple and notably beautiful but at the same time enormously disturbing film. It reminds of the great Italian neorealist films, and particularly the films of Vittorio De Sica, with their odd camera angles and real-time duration.
The main protagonist is a desperate man who gambles his life in what is essentially a brutal race for survival. The race is seen exclusively from his point of view as he tries to dodge the immigration agents and stay alive. Occasionally, however, as people around him collapse and die, one is effectively reminded that his story is only a very tiny piece from an incredible tragedy.
Shot in 16mm, the film looks appropriately raw and gritty, very much like most documentary films do. The camera also constantly moves, 'hiding' and 'running' together with the main protagonist. Unsurprisingly, the chase sequences look incredibly authentic.
Ambriz is wonderful as the desperate Mexican farmer. There are long sequences where he barely utters a single word but his facial expressions reveal exactly what is going through his mind. Though her time in front of the camera is limited, Gillen also leaves a memorable impression.
Note: In 1978, ¡Alambrista! won the first Camera d'Or Award (for Best First Feature Film) at the Cannes Film Festival.
Alambrista Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.66:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Robert M. Young's ¡Alambrista! arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion.
The following text appears inside the leaflet provided with this Blu-ray disc:
"Approved by director Robert M. Young, this new high-definition digital transfer was created on a Spirit Datacine from a 35mm blow-up interpositive made from the original 16mm A/B negatives. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, and warps were manually removed using MTI's DRS, while Image System's Phoenix was used for small dirt and grain reduction.
Colorists: Lee Kline/Criterion, New York; Jane Tomachyov/DuArt, New York."
The basics are certainly very good, though a new high-definition transfer struck from a new master prepared directly from the original negative would have likely produced a marginally tighter color scheme and an even thicker grain structure. Nevertheless, the image still has the proper thickness and fine natural colors 16mm films boast. Contrast is also stable, while clarity, especially during panoramic vistas (see screencapture #13), very pleasing. More importantly, however, there are no traces of problematic post-production digital tinkering. Specifically, there are no traces of sharpening corrections or severe denoising. There are no serious stability issues to report in this review either. This being said, some tiny flecks occasionally pop up here and there (see screencapture #8), but are never overly distracting. All in all, this is a fine presentation that should please fans of this unique American film. (Note: This is a Region-A "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-A or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
Alambrista Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one audio track on this Blu-ray disc: Spanish LPCM 2.0 (with portions of English dialog). For the record, Criterion have provided optional English subtitles for the main feature. However, they appear only when Spanish is spoken.
The following text appears inside the leaflet provided with this Blu-ray disc:
"The original stereo soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from the original magnetic tracks. Clicks, thumps, hiss, and hum were manually removed using Pro Tools HD. Crackle was attenuated using AudioCube's integrated workstation."
The press materials I received note the presence of a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track, but what is on the disc is in fact an LPCM 2.0 track. Generally speaking, the lossless track serves the film well -- admittedly, it does have a rather limited dynamic amplitude, but the audio has very pleasing depth and fluidity. Additionally, the audio is consistently crisp and free of problematic distortions. There are no sync issues, pops, or dropouts.
Alambrista Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Alambrista Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Robert M. Young's ¡Alambrista! is one of the most honest American films about illegal immigration that I have ever seen. It truly touches the heart in a way few other similarly themed films do. Kudos to Criterion for yet another spectacular Blu-ray release of a very important film, which until now has obviously never been treated with the respect it deserves. Bravo! VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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Alambrista Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Criterion Blu-ray in April: Frampton, Ozu, Young, Ashby, Monicelli - January 13, 2012
The Criterion Collection has posted their full roster of Blu-ray releases for April 2012. Titles include the A Hollis Frampton Odyssey short film collection, Yasujiro Ozu's Late Spring, Robert M. Young's ¡Alambrista!, Hal Ashby's Harold and Maude, and Mario Monicelli's ...
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