Tuesday, February 7, 2023 at 7:30pm
Rubén Gámez's The Secret Formula

361 Stagg Street, Suite 407, Brooklyn

The Secret Formula, Rubén Gámez, 1965, digital projection, 42 mins

Our first encounter with Rubén Gámez’s The Secret Formula came by way of director Jean-Pierre Gorin, who included it as part of The Way of the Termite, his expansive survey of the essay film. He paired the film with L’Age d’Or, and Gámez’s work, like Buñuel’s, jettisons the trappings of conventional narrative, drawing its aesthetic force from both the lyrical discontinuities of its montage as well as its oneiric set pieces, which veer from comic to gruesome. An early reviewer in Positif was struck by “scaffolding of priests and seminarists, the latter chewing the hands of the former until the blood runs and until they fall to the ground like ripe pears,” while Gorin singled out the sequence of a vaquero lassoing a businessman in the middle of a city street. Yet The Secret Formula, laced with the writings of Juan Rulfo and the strings of Stravinsky, is also a vigorous commentary on the country in which it was made, and has earned its place among the most influential films of the Latin American avant-garde. “It is an x-ray,” observed one admirer, Alfonso Cuarón, “not of Mexico, but of what it is to be Mexican,” a movie that pierces the surface of a national iconography to reveal the collective unconscious beneath.

Gámez later remarked that the film’s brevity is a reflection of the resources that were then at hand; denied support by funders, he simply ran out of money. More than two decades after it was laureled at the First Experimental Film Contest in Mexico City, he maintained a desire to complete a project he understood as unfinished. Gámez's ambitions for the work, as an antidote to political inertia and the stupefying sameness of the culture industry, were never fully realized. Viewed today, one might see The Secret Formula, frozen in an intermediary form, as something like a challenge, bequeathed to a new generation of filmmakers.

Tickets - Pay what you can ($10 suggested donation), available at door.

Please note: seating is limited. First-come, first-served. Box office opens at 7pm. No entry 10 minutes after start of show.