Conflict and Passion
”Midaq Alley” was made in Mexico in 1994 and adapted from a novel by Naguib Mahfouz, the Egyptian who won the 1988 Nobel Prize for literature. The locale was shifted from Cairo in the 1940’s to a busy street in Mexico City in the 1990’s. It tells overlapping stories of the local people.
The first of the stories centers on Rutilio (Ernesto Gomez Cruz), the married middle-aged owner of the local cantina, whose decision to try homosexuality prompts Chava (Juan Manuel Bernal), his only son, to assault Rutilio’s young partner, outrage his father and flee, hoping to realize his dream of life in the United States.
The second story focuses on Alma (Ms. Hayek), whose budding love affair with the young barber Abel (Bruno Bichir) is interrupted when Abel responds to his desperate friend Chava’s plea to join him in an attempt to cross the border. The idealistic Abel leaves, though not before pledging his love for Alma and telling her to wait for him to return to marry her. Before he is long gone, Alma’s mother tries to marry her off to a much older man, but Alma is interested in Jose Luis (Daniel Gimenez Cacho), a dashing and wealthy scoundrel who turns her into one of his high-class cocaine-using prostitutes kept in a lavish brothel.
The third episode revolves around Susanita (Margarita Sanz), the very plain spinster who is the landlady of the premises that are home to Rutilio and his family, Alma and her mother and Abel. Susanita is desperate for romance and thinks she has found love with the much younger Guicho (Luis Felipe Tovar), Rutilio’s thieving waiter, who thinks he has found an easy mark.
“Midaq Alley” is one of the classics of Mexican Cinema and is now available on Blu-ray and DVD with a new digital restoration from Film Movement Classics. It includes a behind-the-scenes featurette and a newly written essay. Director Jorge Fons, follows a group of overlapping characters through four distinct episodes. The film is the winner of more awards than any other film in the history of Mexican Cinema. It is probably best known as the breakout performance for telenovela star Salma Hayek, who soon found international stardom.
In the final chapter (or the fourth chapter) all the stories are resolved.