For a film buff, discovering a movie like "Aventurera" is better than finding buried treasure. Before we saw it, we'd never heard of its star, Ninon Sevilla, and now we can't wait to see some of her other movies (like 1949's "Senora Tentacion" & 1956's "Yambao") even without subtitles and cut up with commercials on Spanish language television channels.
The pace of this 1949 Mexican film noir is breathtaking. In the first few minutes of the movie, we meet Sevilla as an innocent young girl named Elena whose mother runs off with another man. After her broken-hearted father commits suicide, Elena must find work, but every job she takes results in unwanted pawing. Finally, an old acquaintance named Lucio takes her to a nightclub, plies her with champagne and promises to help her become a well-paid secretary. Instead, Elena finds herself working for the ruthless Rosaura, owner of a Juarez brothel. Elena not only has to sing and dance for the nightclub patrons, but share her bed with them as well! As the plot thickens, we learn that Rosaura is leading a double life in Guadalajara, that Elena is a fast learner of most of life's bitter truths and that even a knife-wielding hunchbacked thug named El Rengo is not all that he seems to be.
The eight production numbers are on the sane level as those in a low-budget Columbia musical of the forties, but Sevilla's over-the-top sensuality makes them sparkle. And when she isn't singing and dancing, her skill at projecting rage and resentment helps the 101 minute running time whiz by.
Many of Sevilla's best scenes are with Andrea Palma, who plays Rosaura. Both women have a million reasons to hate each other, and Sevilla and Palma give their convoluted characters a surprising degree of dramatic realism in their highly charged sequences together. None of the male actors (except for Miguel Incian as El Rengo) is in the same league as Sevilla or Palma, but at least none of then looks or sounds like Glenn Ford, the bane of bargain basement California noir. How many more gems like "Aventurera" are shelved in the vaults of other countries, waiting to be brought to life again on the movie screens of today? For starters, at least give us more Ninon Sevilla films, especially those with tantalizing titles like "Victims of Sin" and "Sensuality". San Francisco's legendary Castro Movie Palace deserves credit for bringing "Aventurera" to contemporary audiences, many who, like us, had no idea what a cinematic treat we've been missing all these years.
© 2004 - Monica Sullivan - Air Date: 11/17/04
Mexico - 1950