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Mock ClassicismLatin American Film Comedy, 1930-1960$
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Nilo Couret

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780520296848

Published to California Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520296848.001.0001

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Cantinflismo and Relajo’s Peripheral Vision

Cantinflismo and Relajo’s Peripheral Vision

(p.22) Chapter 1 Cantinflismo and Relajo’s Peripheral Vision
Mock Classicism

Nilo Couret

University of California Press

This chapter revisits the popular comedies of Mario “Cantinflas” Moreno from the golden age of Mexican cinema and argues that these films are not simply escapist and ideologically suspect but represent peripheral spaces of subversive difference that in their cultural and historical specificity cannot be easily co-opted by a cultural-imperialist center. Cantinflas’s humor is characterized by his linguistic contortionism, or cantinflismo, in which he says plenty without saying anything, a verbal nonsense that sidesteps narrative registers and affords a bodily engagement through laughter that relies on particular cultural codes and learned structures of feeling. This chapter provincializes classical Hollywood cinema by arguing for a peripheral vision modeled on the comedic practice of the relajo, which plays with the classical spatial arrangement of screen and theater space. This chapter examines the comedian’s quick verbal play in addition to formal devices, editing techniques, and doubled narrative structures that “sidestep” on multiple levels.

Keywords:   Cantinflas, golden age, Mexican cinema, relajo, peripheral vision, cantinflismo

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