La Bandida

Media Type: Film

Year: 1962

Who wrote / made it : Roberto Rodríguez

Plot summary: In La Bandida María Félix plays a prostitute, María/La Bandida, represented as a ‘bad’ woman. The film focuses on a love triangle, which, at times, dwells more on the homosocial relationship between the two men. The film opens with two Revolutionary generals: Roberto Herrero (Pedro Armendáriz), a Villista, and Epigmenio Gómez (Emilio ‘Indio’ Fernández) a Zapatista, fighting one another, only to have their battle interrupted with the news that Madero has called for peace. They then lay down arms against each other. Over the course of the narrative, cockfights ensue, and the two opponents confront each other repeatedly, but with an evident mutual respect.

On being found in bed with another, La Bandida is abandoned by Roberto and she goes to work in a brothel. She leads a rebellion against the Spanish-born madam of the brothel ‘La Gallega’, and takes charge of it herself. This takeover is accompanied by “La marcha de Zacatecas”, a celebratory song which was also used in the final battle scene in Juana Gallo (Miguel Zacarías, 1960), a battle which marked a major victory for the Villistas.  The fight to organise the prostitutes is accompanied by taunts aimed at La Gallega’s Spanish nationality. This is reflective of an underlying theme of nationalism interspersed throughout the film.

Roberto visits the brothel, paying attention to other women to make La Bandida jealous and hurt her feelings. Maria/La Bandida repeatedly provokes Roberto, and flirts with Epigmenio, in an attempt to make Roberto jealous so that he will take her back. The sparring continues between the two men, and, in turn, between La Bandida and Roberto. There are three cockfights in La Bandida, where Epigmenio and Roberto spar their competing birds and the fights serve to reveal their evolving relationship. These cockfights have many layers of meaning. In part, they are another opportunity to indulge in a moment of nationalistic pride. Epigmenio’s treasured bird, which he carries everywhere and is the winner of the first bout, is ‘del país’ [Mexican], while Roberto’s is foreign bred. The origin of the cock has obvious resonances and is a heightened display of their masculinity and valour.

Unlike other films set during the Revolution, in this film, Félix is hyper-feminine to the point of campness. Her star text is heightened by use of key lighting which highlights the glamorous nature of her dresses. Corridos, traditional folk songs closely associated with the Mexican Revolution, are used at key moments in the film in ways that both advance the plot and explore thematic ideas about gender and the nation.

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