Vol. 15 : No. 3
The Writings of Guy Bensusan
Questioning the Images and Scenes in Milagro
By Guy Bensusan
To orient the viewer and pre-establish story perspective or framework, the most important part of a film is the beginning or introduction; let us consider what is made to happen to us in the first minutes of "Milagro Beanfield War." The questions are calculated to help you with the implications and the "set-up."
What's the first thing you see? Sunrise or sunset --- implication?
What is the soundtrack? What does it lead you to think? "Spirit of the wind?" "The winds of change?" "Dust-DEVIL?"
What purposes does wind serve? Is all arid and dry; need a miracle?
Notice the Milagro (Miracle) sign, with the bullet holes: implied meaning?
We hear a concertina: 19th century traditional music instrument stereotype, playing a waltz rhythm, traditional and controversial dance.
The figure of Coyote Angel appears --- how is he dressed: the sombrero, white farmer's outfit, serape and wraparound belt, huaraches --- implication?
What is your impression of Angel as he bounces through the night around the town -- slower motion for effect.
Is this the Spirit of the Past, bewitching the town and its people with the music (the old songs and dances of the past) that they used to dance to?
What is the weight of history here? Can we go back? Do we want to? (Remember this idea) Is there bewitchment of the present by the past? Are we prevented from being up-to-date by our sense of past-values?
Sunrise comes: was the town bewitched by the angel, dreaming of past "good old days" during the dark of the night? (All while you read credits.)
The Angels shadow on the adobe wall? Then cut to the pig, asleep. (Why not a dog or cat or rooster?) The pig --- what color, how big, any implied meaning about way of life, important values? Can an irate pig become vicious?
Cut to old man asleep (notice how fast this goes). The Old Man (named Amarante Cordoba). He awakens. What is your first impression? How have you already been set-up by the Angel?
Amarante goes to the mirror (what does mirror do for you) --- consider the implication of letting us see "real old Man" and simultaneously his "mirror image."
What's your impression now? Developed from the first impression?
"Thank you, God, for letting me have another day." Another impression change? Is this character undergoing intensification and development? Are there implications in his "talking to God."
He goes to the pump and gets some water.WATER versus DRY -- sequential contrast; first we were shown DRY and WIND, and now we get WATER: is this intended? Would it have worked in the reverse sequence?
Is this "insignificant" (almost overlooked) act not the microcosmic essence of the whole story, as well as of Western life in the broader sense? Is water just water? Is water an image? Hard to access in the western country? Is water a symbol, both in general and in the west in particular?
Does this foreshadow the water in the ditch? Or of the water-rights struggle?
Coyote Angel in the wrecked auto skeleton --- continuing the "dying-past theme?" Amarante says, "Who needs you?" Coyote says, "It's your town that's dying." Amarante calls Lupita, his pig. (Is he ignoring the past? Concentrating on the now?)
Then Coyote says, "Don Amarante de Cordoba, I see windmills on your horizon." On the literal level, what would a windmill do? On the figurative level? What's the allusion? Don Quixote attacking windmills? What implication?
Calling Lupita shifts from "idea" to filmic-reality by making the connection for the transition to the next scenes, leading us down the road.
Why do the folk of Milagro put up with Lupita? What does it imply about them, their culture, their relationship with the old man? Or is it just funny?
First impression of Joe Mondragon? Under what conditions do we meet him? Do we need an "angry man"? Is there a quickie first impression of Nancy?
Then to Ruby Archuleta, as she opens the garage door. What is the first impression that is given of her?
On to Sheriff Bernie Montoya who exits his house, mumbling, "Something about this day."
His wife says, "Let a smile be your umbrella." Impressions given? Then his car won't start --- foreshadows???
The mayor, Sammy Cantu --- first impression of him? The Company Store owner, Nick Rael --- first impression?
Bulldozers --- doing what? Sequential sound contrast? Miracle Valley --- implication? Relate the name to the movie title? Implication of the juxtaposition of the sign and 'dozers with the mountains in the background?
Workers: All Anglo? Joe in his old truck, "how about a job?"
Shorty replies, "I can't help you, Joe, sorry." Does that suggest he personally doesn't want to hire the Mex or that he is not really in charge? Or is this an ambivalent clue which doesn't really let you know where Shorty stands? (Remember this later on.) What's your impression of Shorty? Implication for the set-up and conflict? What's the strategy here?
Joe, "I can do anything an Anglo can do" --- Shorty replies, "What can I tell you, Joe?" --- where does this put Shorty in our impressions? Is this strategy? Joe drives off, flipping the finger to the sign: implication? Is he saying, "if that's the future, I don't want it?" Or, "screw the future?" Is this further characterization of Joe? Further development of the "conflict?" Both?
Cut to the Big House, with mariachi's playing on the soundtrack. Why are we shown INVESTORS, for so long? What ideas are being juxtaposed between sound and sight?
What do you read in the musicians' faces? Purpose of the party? Implication for the story conflict? How are you being set up?
What impression is Ladd Devine (with blonde wife Flossie) giving? What is he saying? Implication for the conflict?
Who surrounds Ladd Devine? All Anglos? Is there a difference in implied values between what the Anglos want and what the Mejicano townspeople want?
What's the mayor saying? Whose side is the mayor on? Does this fit with your first impression of the mayor? What's the effect and the meaning which comes from juxtaposition of Mayor and his words with the Mariachi musicians' faces?
--- EVERYTHING UP TO THIS POINT IS "PRELIMINARY SET-UP."
Consider how much you know, because it has been fed to you a spoonful at a time: Is there setting? Is there mood? Has the initial set of characters been presented to you and given characterization?
Has the essence of the conflict been posed? In other words, what is the problem and who is on which side? Have you started to favor either side yet?
How do you feel about this matter and why do you feel that way? At this point, how would you like to see the issue resolved? What would you suggest as a resolution of the problem? --- what advice would you give at this moment?
---NOW THE KEY TO THE CHOICE PRECIPITATING THE ACTION
We cut to Joe, who gets out of his old truck: he slams the truck door (rather than closing it or leaving it open), he then leaps over the irrigation ditch, rather than walking around through the gate. He walks alongside the irrigation ditch, muttering angrily to himself.
Do all these actions characterize? Do they call attention to the "problem?" Do they keep us aware of the solution made possible by the ditch? Explain.
Having set you up, the camera now repositions:
PAY CLOSE ATTENTION TO THE FIVE SHOTS WHICH FOLLOW ---
1. The low angle camera juxtaposes irrigation water-flow (coming toward us) on the left with Joe (walking toward us) on the right. What has your attention in this shot and what are you supposed to think? Does it matter that we have to "look up to Joe?"
1a. As the camera retreats, the locked irrigation gate appears on the lower right side of the film. As a result, what happens in directing your thinking?
2. Joe stops in the longer shot and the camera cuts to a close-up of Joe's face --- are we still looking up to him? What does his face show you? Do you want to know why he stopped? Do you know what he is looking at?
3. Cut, reverse camera, to Joe's point of view, looking at, or rather "looking down on" (implication?) the irrigation gate.
Is the shot held long enough for you to read what is on the tag, "prohibited?"
4. Back to shot two for a quick look (still looking up to Joe?) as he gets ready to kick. Implication of the point of view?
5. Cut to reverse camera as we see the "prohibited" sign demolished. End of sequence. What has been accomplished here? What are the implications for story and formula?
In the tragic formula, the Noble Hero with the Tragic Flaw makes a Moral Choice based on his flaw. Do we see that here?
Joe is the hero, the person around whose action and persistence the whole story will revolve. However, is he less than "Noble" in the aristocratic sense, or even in the behavioral sense? Look at his yard, the way he responds to Lupita, his approach to Shorty and his reaction to the refusal and the sign, as well as what you have just been shown. Do you not have extensive characterization and intensification built by the development?
BUT, think of his KICK: by doing that he did several things. How many can you define in terms of personal responsibility for action, or being answerable for consequences? But more important, was this careful pre-planning on Joe's part? Cold calculated organization?
Or was it impulsive, un-considered reactive response to a symbol of his oppressed condition? What implications are there here for social unrest leading to "revolt?" Also --- do we possibly have a tragic hero with the flaw? If so, what exactly is the flaw?
And with Joe having once made the MORAL CHOICE, where can it go from this point? We don't really know yet --- but notice what happens now.
We sidetrack by cutting to Amarante, who does not recognize this member of the younger generation at first. Is this a generation-gap?
Amarante challenges Joe's right to be in the field, then sees that it is Joe. Does language switch? Joe, meanwhile, has paced about, and then squats, looking down at the old dried-up beanfield. Enter Amarante, lower left of the screen, looking up diagonally to Joe ---
And the beautiful mountains as a background (who does or who should the land belong to?); how is your reaction being led?
Amarante babbles about talking to Joe's father (Coyote Angel) about the beanfield, the garden and the westside neighborhood, and Joe replies that his father has been dead for six years. Does this continue the generation-gap idea?
Notice the visual contrast of "horizontality" (down-to-earthness) in juxtaposing Amarante (vertical) against the horizontal backdrop of his adobe, and likewise with Joe and the line of the ground, as well as the white fence.
Amarante asks, "why are you here?" --- does this mean here in the beanfield, or is it a deliberate question on the more figurative level of "what are you going to do with your beanfield and your life?" If we accept the figurative, then is it just one individual, Joe? Or is Joe the symbolic rebel for all the Mexican Americans (actually Spanish Americans) dispossessed by the non-fulfillment of the promises written and signed in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.
Are we dealing here merely with current fraudulent manipulation of the laws by the big city and big money developers? Or is this more of a multi-generational, bit by bit curtailment of the earlier freedoms of the Mejicanos who stayed in their homes after the conquest?
If the figurative is intended, is Joe a person, an image or figure of rebellion against past injustices, and symbolic leader of the community in a revolution? (notice the conflict between how the movie treats him, and how he assumes he is being treated.) Ethnic struggle? Or individual level?
We return from the aside to water gurgling down the hill. We hear it before we see it (soundtrack lead). Amarante is puzzled and apprehensive when he says, "Did they say that you could use the water?" Joe replies, "It must have come loose when I kicked it." WHY do you think he now starts back up the hill? Why does he stop? What's the camera doing now? Soundtrack?
What are the EFFECTS, PAYOFFS his putting his boot in the water, lifting the wet dirt --- is the communication with words or feelings? How does this action touch you?
Joe sits and thinks, contemplates, reflects --- "I ought to go shut it off. I'll sleep on it." What is the effect here? What is he helping you to think?
What does the water symbolize here? Literal versus figurative versus symbolic. Is it the same as the first water we saw? Or has the characterization of the "water" also "developed?"
What does this add to our vision of the conflict: impulse followed by reflection creates conscious choice?
Joe had the chance to go and close the water gate, but didn't. Is THIS the real point of deliberate choice?
Joe goes home. Is he apprehensive? Wife Nancy hanging up the washed clothes. Effect? Implication? (Doesn't Joe repair washers, dryers and refrigerators? Or can't they afford the electricity?)
Joe says he's got to fix her dryer. Nancy shakes her head. Is it in remonstrance or sympathy?
How does their mini-scene show the lifestyle change due to modern conveniences, the foreshadowing of Joe's irritation (and Ruby's church speech later), Joe's reminiscence about picking berries, the bulldozing of old values?
Now we get an extension of Nancy's characterization in her own right, rather than a body in bed with her husband. What do we learn: is she sensitive? is she observant? religious?
Joe's reminiscence --- is this a continuation of Coyote Angel's earlier idea of relating the present to the past? Were we set up? Is Nancy really paying attention to what Joe is saying? Effect?
Contrast cut to bulldozers (and sound) chaining down the trees. Is this also a juxtaposition?
What is the effect of having Joe's reminiscence followed immediately by the change in what we see, the sound, the higher noise level ---
Implications. What is the essential contrast between the idea of picking wild raspberries with the kids and chaining down junipers with bulldozers?
Construction Boss in blue truck drives past the Devine sign, slides to a halt on seeing the wet beanfield and then speeds off to tell his boss. Effect? Does it produce a counter-effect?
Meanwhile, Amarante goes to the bar and tells the cronies. What is the reaction of the bartender, Tranquilino, and the other "old men?"
One-armed Onofre now serves as the moving vector, taking us across the street, introducing us to the rock-throwing woman (why isn't she in a home somewhere?) and then tells the boys in the store.
The mayor, Sammy Cantu is telling a joke --- is the content of the joke significant to our story? to the characterization of Sammy Cantu as a "vendido" (sold out to the Anglos)?
Whose side is the store owner, Nick Rael, on? How do you know? What does his reaction-shot tell you when Onofre announces that Joe is watering the field?
Pay attention to the music now. It is of Peruvian origin and has revolutionary and anti-establishment implications. That makes its use an allusion. If you don't know what the music is, you can't participate in the musical allusion. You can only respond sensually to what you are hearing. That is not a belittling judgment --- merely a condition, a different way of taking part.
However, does that really matter? Does the viewer not get led purely by the beat and the feelings that come from the sound of the tune and the instruments --- which are also helped by the visual criss-cross bustle in the town?
The kid on the bike goes out to see if it is true --- and look at his face, and how he is placed in that V (for victory?) between the fence posts ---
Mayor Cantu catches up with Sheriff Bernie at Ruby's garage. Breathlessly he says, "Did you hear?"
Bernie retorts, "You're going to be on 'The Price is Right?" What's the point? And what does that tell us about both men?
How does Ruby seem to react? What does Ruby's reaction-shot tell you? She goes to see?
Cut to Jerry, the Forest Service officer, now gives us his view (thus forming our impressions?), "What's that little half-pint son-of-a-bitch want to cause so much trouble for?"
Cut to Ruby, overlooking the beanfield, saying, "I knew that Joe Mondragon couldn't go through his entire life without attempting at least one great thing." How many story functions or payoffs are in this statement?
Joe goes home. Why does he turn off the TV and kick the kids out? Is it because he wants to "nap with his wife?" What other things are involved here? What's Nancy's reaction to his proposition?
Is spraying Joe with the beer accidental? A reverse sexual allusion? How solid a relationship do these two have? Is this all a basic part of the story or merely a cute aside?
Cut to Bernie driving to Devine's. Why doesn't Bernie want to arrest Joe? Is he "chicken," is he "the peacemaker," or is he really on Joe's side?
Jerry, the Forest Service cop is there too --- what does Shorty's comment tell us and imply?
Bernie, "nobody understands the water laws." What implication is there here?
And it also allows us to cut to Governor in the State House for capital reaction.
Meanwhile, back at the beanfield; everyone watching the plowing to the "happy, upbeat music," plus Coyote Angel looking too.
Do we here have IRONY (conflict/contrast)? --- illegal act which is "good," favored by the folk? That is what is presented in the film, no? Whose side are we supposed to be on? Where does Redford want us?
But can we not also take the developer's side: "This land needs to be developed; these people will be better off under the improved economics?"
How do we weigh the equities in reality, as opposed to the equities presented artistically?
Ruby goes to Charlie Bloom's house; we are given first impression of Bloom, plus development for Ruby. How is Bloom presented to us? Look at what he is doing, how he responds to Ruby and the backdrop against which he is placed.
Is Bloom presented as the traditional stereotyped image of "Anglo Savior or Samaritan," lifting up the poor downtrodden Mexicans? Does Ruby come across as the traditional stereotyped image of "dark, manipulative seductress?"
We get initial characterization of Herbie Platt, Sociology student from NYU, even before we see him we hear him. Where? What is the first impression?
How is he received? How do you account for the series of receptions by the bystander, the Mayor, the fellow who runs into him, etc. How does Mayor Cantu come across here?
What is Herbie's reaction? How has he expected things to be? Are there apparent values differences between "Anglo" and "Mexican" here? How?
Notice the interlace of Joe's passage and Herbie's problems.
Nick is unwilling to put the beans on Joe's bill. Why? Is it really the $96 previously owed? Is this characterization? Conflict? Both? Did Nick just reinforce Joe's action of rebellion?
Why does Joe pay cash with his last ten dollars, thus having to deprive his kids of their popsicles? Is that a negative for him? Or does it have something to do with choices? Weigh the implications of a father's responsibility.
Why does Joe help Herbie? Did the author put that in just to help the plot? How does it help the plot?
Is this Mexican Joe, helping the Anglo who is helping Mexicans, a subtle message? Is there any symbolic implication here for the socio-cultural future of the Southwest?
Or is it just personal symbiosis: Herbie needs a bunk and is willing to work, while Joe needs free help and has the old adobe house empty?
Cut to the hallway --- why is it "dark?" Characterization and mood? What and who are we looking at and why do we see him from the back? Effect? And what is soundtrack doing?
How does this influence first impression of Kyril Montana? Is it different when you see his face, or were you already set up?
How many different ways is Montana characterized? Arrests, racial overtones, bad publicity, activist lawyer --- is this all new for us?
Montana finally says, "You mean we just stop Joe Mondragon without an arrest?" --- is there implication? foreshadowing?
Then he gets his official car. How does he respond? "That's all we've got (is new cars)." Is that a values-characterization for government?
How does Montana treat the car? Does the way he treats the car (as well as the "nature" he runs over) imply or foreshadow the way he will treat Joe Mondragon? What sort of behavior can we expect from Montana?
Immediately we cut to Joe in the beanfield: Juxtaposition contrast.
Bernie enters, they talk, Joe says he will only stop when he thinks he is doing wrong ---
At that moment what happens in the sky? In the soundtrack? What are you being given? Underneath all this lies the land and the way these two treat it and talk about it, even if they do joke about voting frauds.
What are the values implications of this contrast with Montana's treatment of car and nature?
Is there also a parallel in Anglo thinking here: Herbie assumed that all would be okay, simply because he had written a letter about the grant. The Governor's office assumed that all would be okay, simply because they had manipulated a legality. In both cases they were wrong, because something went wrong with the plan. Is that of comparative values importance?
We see Amarante and Lupita on the road as Montana drives by: is there a value or purpose in contrasting those two? Has Montana fooled anyone? Or do all the Milagrans see "COP?"
More development with Montana, Bloom and Ruby. Cut to "waiting" by Amarante, Coyote Angel and Herbie.
Planting the beanfield -- Anglo college student verbally harassed by Mejicanos in low-riders --- Why? Does it say something about Joe?
The "Cross in the driveway" incident: Montana reveals that Bloom has planned the revolution --- what are the Anglo versus Mexican implications of that untruth? Does anyone else share that view?
When Shorty tells the story of Brazo Onofre, Montana, Devine and the Foreman laugh, and are given a reaction shot of Bernie"s face --- effect?
The "buy-up-and-burn-the-newspapers caper: what does that say to you? If people don't know, it doesn't exist? Does that give precedence to "the written" as opposed to "the spoken?"
Combine the idea, the visuals, Coyote Angel, the wind, the newspapers-from-above and the music on the soundtrack --- what's being implied? How do you now feel about it?
The Town Meeting in the church: Notice the diagonal shot of the five old men in a row --- given to you twice. Effect?
Ruby runs the meeting, wearing a dress and not her jeans. What is the effect and the implication?
Is her statement the first time the entire "conflict thesis" has been fully and clearly stated? Up to now we have only had bits and pieces --- are the lines now clearly drawn between the two sides?
Bloom has been tricked --- but what do you think of the way he handles it? (Quick cut to the cops outside under the moon) Bloom is arrested and jailed --- Note the reaction shots of the two saints. Purpose? Did Bloom's arrest affect you? Implication?
The "bad guys" all laugh, which provides a laughter transition cut to Coyote and Amarante.
Enter Herbie, and the interview with the old man. Do both learn from each other? Is there a point for the plot?
We go back to the jail. Bloom's mood? What's the effect of Bloom being angry with Ruby?
Return to the relationship between Herbie and Amarante --- how does it develop, how close are they becoming? Is there a point here?
Contrast cut to noisy bulldozers and then Devine, Flossie and Shorty on the mountain, referring to Joe's "huevos."
Lengthy scene on the attempt to kidnap Joe's cow: It is a mini-movie: this scene in a whole story in itself, with Introduction, Development and Conclusion. Pay attention to the camerawork in visual reinforcement of the verbal development.
How do the respective sides come across? Joe and cow; Jerry and helper; The Old Men; Bernie's entrance in a cloud of dust.
Conflict development continuation: what are the effects with the fishheads and beating of Joe and Herbie? Are they the same?
Do both set up the Sheriff Amarante's strapping-on of pistol? (Notice visual and soundtrack allusions to Marshall Matt Dillon in the "Gunsmoke" TV series.)
The bar-shooting by Amarante. Allusion to revolution --- "Who do you think you are, Pancho Villa?"
What are the effects of Amarante's dead-eye shooting on the rest of the men in the bar? On the audience? Are you laughing?
Scenes of waiting ----- which are followed immediately by Devine's yelling, "DO SOMETHING!" Is this a foreshadow-juxtaposition sequence-contrast?
Shorty comes up with the idea of putting Joe to work as crew boss at $14 an hour, buying all the plumbing fixtures from Ruby ---
Which sets up the comparative values discussion between Joe and his male friend versus Ruby and Nancy. Who wants what?
Are these crossovers of values (Anglo to Mex or traditional to modern) now? Is Joe tempted to quit? What stops the discussion? Is it a good time to change the subject and thus avoid a "choice?"
Now intense (humorous) run on ammunition at Nick's store (as well as the guitar-runs on the soundtrack) --- watch the cross and the little saint behind Nick.
Cut to the fire, burning down the sign.
Then Devine's "primal scream," intensifications and escalations of activity. Are these all quick-cut intensifiers, building toward several climaxes, including one when Flossie says, "I don't think the world really needs another golf course?"
Coyote foreshadows by telling Amarante of the need for a big sacrifice. Does Amarante know what is meant? What do you feel is about to happen here?
Beanfield Bulldozing --- is Devine behind it or does the foreman take things into his own hands? The effect of the low camera angle on the bean plants?
Followed by rapid scenes of Heroic Amarante, Joe and the Pig Lupita, with Lupita wounded, the sun-in-the-eyes, and then Joe shooting Amarante.
Note the role played by the old men who urge Joe to flee. Note especially the effect on Herbie of Amarante's being shot. Does this action (sacrifice?) crystallize everyone? You too?
Notice Bloom's role --- once in his anger (causing the "competent Montana" to walk away quietly), and by his own choice, going out to water the beanfield.
Are these all individual acts? Or is the movie developing more general social points? Have Bloom's values changed, or remained the same? Is this symbolic of the power of the "aroused citizenry?"
Note Ruby's reaction in both cases. What is the implication? Are we looking for or longing for some romance here?
Posse sequence. "Big-Guns" Montana arrives, and confronts Bernie. What are the Anglo versus Mejicano value expectations in conflict here?
Why does Bernie agree to take the posse home? Is this a wrong assumption about Montana's competence, persistence and pride? Does Montana symbolize Anglos here, and Bernie the Mexican Americans?
Cut to the hospital, Ruby's foreshadowing, Herbie's sense of helplessness, until he prepares a meal for the Saint.
What are the meanings and implications? Why is this put into the movie? Is Herbie losing his culture or getting soft in the head? Does Herbie really believe in what he is doing? Or is it also for the effect upon us? Notice the impact of the lighting and the soundtrack on our feelings for Herbie, and for the situation. And for us?
On to Bloom watering the beanfield, mentioned above. Why can't Bloom hear the music Ruby hears? Does that shatter their romantic possibilities for us?
How does this relate to Herbie's taco supper for the Saint? Is there a cultural line which cannot be crossed by an outsider, no matter how hard he tries, or is anything possible?
Back to Amarante and the big shadow of Coyote Angel on the wall: we have seen that before, no? It is repetition-variation, but is it the same? What does it suggest this time?
To the chase scene: man afoot, man on horseback, up the hill. Why pick this setting? What is accomplished?
Back to the Hospital. Amarante lives. Bernie questions him about "complicity" --- everyone denies everything: do you believe them? Does Bernie? Knowing they set up the "revolution," how do you feel about the "right and wrong" --- or have you been set up?
Back to the chase. Up the mountain watching the feet and the hooves, to the shooting. Did the cuts get more rapid?
Suddenly the tables are turned. Were you expecting it? Had you been set up (milagro? --- miracle intervention ) And who is it? Why Shorty??? How do you account for it? Many levels?
Or was it pre-established in the Introduction when Joe asked Shorty for a job? Shorty won't give Joe a lift down the mountain --- how many reasons can you think of? Which ones are the most likely?
Triumphant return of Hungry Joe, and on to the beanfield fiesta. Everyone goes to the field except Mayor Cantu and Storekeeper Nick. Even churchbells ring.
Contrast of quiet in the beanfield with the arrival of the festive pickers. But we also have the prior comparison to Joe's father, who had to pick beans as a migrant worker for $2 per hour --- another deliberate contrast?
Lupita joins in, plus Herbie, while Ruby gathers signatures on her petition.
Enter the sirens and Joe's arrest. Only now it is too late. Is this the big climax? Or is this an anti-climax? Can this confrontation explode? or must it end in a victory for the beanfielders?
Bernie arrives --- again in a cloud of dust. Why can't he make it over the ditch? Or is this another instance of "comic relief of tension?"
The Governor's intervention over the radio (in theater it's called Deus Ex Machina, or God of the Machine --- a voice "from above" stops the possible outbreak of violence). And how does Montana take it? Is he really angry?
What a party!!! Victory? Or are we still giving and developing characterization to the people?
Do we still expect Bloom and Ruby to get together? Or is their relationship not a "romantic" one? And we finish with Coyote Angel meeting Amarante, taking the short-cut, and "hopping" over the gate into the next world.
What are we left with? Is the film anti-development? What message do you get out of it?
Bravo for the cinematographer Robbie Greenberg, composer Dave Grusin, co-producer Moctezuma Esparza, and especially for director Robert Redford.
(Redford, by the way, has seen all these questions and has sent his best wishes to the class for their study.)
What are we left with? Who wins? What wins? Who loses and what loses? What has actually been accomplished and where does it go from here?
As traditional images presented and discussed in the essay called, "Filmic Images of the Mexican American," where do we now find ourselves? Does any Mexican American in this movie qualify as a Greasy Bandido? A buffoon? Gangster? Avenger? Harassed Victim? Americanized light-skinned "passer"? Jolly Loafer? Stereotypes??
Can we make a case that Mayor Sammy Cantu, Shopkeeper Nick and Forest cop Jerry are trying to pass themselves off as Anglos? Or are they just sell-outs, vendidos, aligned with Devine?
Does Bernie fit there too? Or do any of the Anglos, like Bloom or Herbie actually serve as Samaritans without whom the Mexicans cannot be "saved?"
Or are they Anglo "converts" to the cause?
How do you feel about this film? Is it real or fantasy? What have you been given about Mexican Americans?
Let's look at the sum total of each character now that the movie is over.How do you explain Joe Mondragon? Is he a hero? An anti-hero? A non-hero? Does he have the community well-being at heart, or does he just bumble along? Is he just a real rebel, an accidental one, a reluctant one? or is he mainly a self-serving individualist? Is Ruby an Earth Mother? A community leader? A female bridge between cultures? Looking about for her next man?
What about Amarante and Coyote Angel? Bernie? Or are the Anglos the ones who are stereotyped? Devine? Flossie? Shorty? The Governor and his gang? The Foreman Crew-boss? Kyril Montana?
If you cannot find stereotypes in the movie, perhaps this film story is dealing with Mexican Americans on a sophisticated level? You have to read the book (enjoyable and different), to see John Nichols treating the characters in prose.
CONSIDER SOME MILAGRO CONFLICTS
l. Tradition versus modernization
2. Exploitation versus environmentalism
3. Developer versus resident
4. Government versus citizen
5. Anglo versus Mexican American
6. Suburban versus rural
7. Rich versus poor
8. Legalism versus initiative
9. Administrative coercion versus civil disobedience
10. Fantasy versus realism
11. Folkways versus mainstream religion
12. Insider resolution versus outsider Samaritanism