Vivir Mata (Life Kills) Review
Silvia (Susana Zabaleta) is a presenter on Radio Enlace, a station that provides traffic information for the people of Mexico City. There are some aspects of the job that she doesn’t like, such as the ‘Giveaway Caravan’ where prizes are given away to listeners who repeat the catchphrase of the day. On a whim, she decides to liven her life up by pretending to be a journalist from a rival radio station and approaches a man she believes to be a writer waiting to be interviewed. In reality, Silvia has met Diego (Daniel Giménez Cacho), an artist who models novelty items such as plastic vomit and rubber snakes, who is waiting there to deliver the catchphrase for the Giveaway Caravan’s prize turkey. The relationship between ‘Laura’ and ‘Hugo’ thus gets of to a fictitious start and ends predictably badly, but as Silvia and Diego re-examine the encounter while relating the story to friends, they realise there was something there that they had not experienced in a relationship before.
We’ve really run up against a dire batch of films in Fox’s latest wave of Cinema Latino films with this, A Second Chance and Sex, Shame and Tears – mediocre, Mexican soap entertainment the lot of them. Life Kills (the title is nonsensical and unrepresentative of the film) presents a bland situation between two eminently dislikeable characters who build up fictitious artifices around their superficial little lives. Fair enough, people with superficial little lives are as entitled as anyone to excitement and romance, but it’s really hard to care what happens to this particular couple since you can’t even see why they would like each other in the first place. (The same trouble afflicted A Second Chance, where you were expected to care about an affluent middle-class yuppie Mexican couple, one of whom begins an affair with a college student while the other sets about ecological destruction to win a big business contract.) There’s no romance here, there’s no magic, there’s no sense of connection between two like-minded people. Nothing. Just two insignificant, horrible, little people, who never seem to get on in the first place, never mind try to re-establish a relationship on a more truthful basis.
Mere blandness would be bad enough, but Vivir Mata goes further, presenting the story in Grease-like “tell me more, tell me more” fashion, as Silvia relates the story to her colleague at work, while Diego tells the story to two male ‘artist’ friends as they drive somewhere for something I was never really able to grasp. Grease however at least had the wit to present two widely differing viewpoints of an encounter, one told from feminine dreamy idealism, the other from machismo bravado. Here, both parties tell exactly the same dumb story from the same objective viewpoint, which leads to such ludicrous pronouncements from Diego as “only she can make me a better person”, which apart from there being no foundation behind such a declaration, is a hopelessly inaccurate depiction of how men talk to each other about women they have slept with on a one-night stand under assumed names.
To compound the sheer mediocrity of the story, it is presented in Channel 5, afternoon TV for housewives fashion, with women’s magazine philosophy on relationships. You can almost see the blurb splashed across a magazine front page – “Men who lie, and why we love them”. Furthermore, the film incompetently tries to tie the whole thing into superstitious mumbo-jumbo, making the encounter appear to be related to a craziness that infects the people of Mexico City around Aztec Night. From every point of view, Vivir Mata is pure and utter nonsense of the worst kind.
Released as part of Wave 4 of Fox’s Cinema Latino collection, Life Kills is released alongside two other similarly bland Mexican films – the sex-comedy, A Second Chance and the incredibly even worse Sex, Shame and Tears. Each release comes in two editions, both apparently identical in terms of content, with only a choice of Spanish or English titles on the cover.
The picture quality is almost perfect. For a film where the actual content is so bad, it’s ironic that the picture quality looks fabulous. There is a slight level of grain in one or two scenes but, like A Second Chance, it gives the movie the quality of a real film that it hardly deserves. There are very few marks of any kind, no sign of artefacts, compression blocking or edge-enhancement – just strong blacks, natural colours with perfect brightness and contrast levels.
The audio is presented as Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround and the sound design is quite good, presenting dialogue and sound clearly with effective use of front and rear speakers. There is no additional English dub on this release, as there was on the DVD for A Second Chance, so perhaps there are differences in the English and Spanish editions other than the title on the cover.
English and Spanish subtitles are provided. I sampled both, as well as trying to watch it without subtitles, and each seem to cover the film’s dialogue fine.
There are no extra features on the DVD.
It was probably a mistake to watch Richard Linklater’s utterly sublime Before Sunset at the cinema the day before sitting down to review Life Kills, as the contrast and gulf between a realistic depiction of an encounter and this trashy magazine feature style drivel couldn’t be more marked. A bland situation with unlikeable characters and anonymous actors – there is nothing entertaining here and no reason whatsoever for watching this. Hopefully, Fox can rescue the Cinema Latino collection as there are surely better Hispanic films more deserving of this quality of DVD release than Vivir Mata.