Castle of Purity-Movie Review

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Castle of Purity

Dir. Arturo Ripstein
Mexico, 1972, 35mm 110 min.
Spanish with English subtitles

Sid and Nancy director Alex Cox once said that if any director could rightly make a claim to Bunuel's throne it would be Arturo Ripstein. Bunuel himself was originally slated to direct Castle of Purity, which turned out to be Ripstein's breakthrough film on the international circuit.

Based on the true story of a man who kept his family locked up in their Mexico City home for 18 years to protect them from the corruption of the outside world, Ripstein's film is a frightening addition to the cinematic canon that includes Kurosawa's I Live in Fear, Paulus Manker's The Moor's Head and Doug Buck's Home.

Gabriel (Claudio Brook) lives in an old house where he produces a rat poison with the help of his wife Beatriz and his three children, Utopía, Porvenir and Voluntad. While imposing strict discipline on the family, which includes not allowing them to leave the house or to eat meat, Gabriel comes and goes freely, eating what he pleases, hiring prostitutes and making sexual advances on unsuspecting women.

His children try in vain to bring attention to their predicament, dropping a letter into the street where it is rained on and trampled upon. But when Gabriel is reported for producing rat poison without a license, it could mean either their freedom or their eternal imprisonment.

Ripstein is one of Mexico's most celebrated directors (perhaps best known here for Deep Crimson, his remake of Leonard Kastle's Honeymoon Killers) and in his hands "the tabloid story provides a microcosm of Mexican society whose isolation and insularity seem almost normal."

Kier-La Janisse