‘New Order’ Review: A Revolutionary Nightmare or a Recurring Dream?
The Mexican director Michel Franco delivers a harsh film that doubles back on itself, inverting assumptions about the forces at play.
By Glenn Kenny
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The Mexican filmmaker Michel Franco frequently devises narrative puzzles that hinge on unusual and emotionally fraught moral and ethical dilemmas. They’re usually on an intimate scale, as in his 2016 medical drama “Chronic.” His latest film, “New Order,” which created a sensation at home and on the festival circuit, takes a contained approach to a big event: insurrection.
An opening montage, featuring many shots that will recur throughout the narrative, is practically surreal, flashing images of destruction and splatters of green liquid. The movie settles in on a lavish Mexico City home where family and friends are celebrating the coming wedding of Marianne (Naian González Norvind). As she and her moneyed fiancé frolic with the guests, disturbances from the outside start oozing in.
Soon the house is invaded by violent looters in face paint. The sight of what appear to be Indigenous people ripping the jewelry from the wealthy white guests plays out like Tucker Carlson’s worst nightmare. All this feels deeply, schematically reactionary on Franco’s part.
But his ultimate vision, which reveals itself in a series of shocking story turns, is bleaker and more acidic than you may have guessed. Along the way, Marianne is kidnapped and subjected to prison depredations that recall the exploitation work of another Franco, the Spanish director, Jess. These and other scenes are meant to be hard to watch, and they are.
The plot corkscrews into a parable of fascism via a “don’t let a crisis go to waste” philosophy. Franco practically dares the viewer to call his conclusion far-fetched. And for better or worse, the director’s dynamic filmmaking makes some of his projections stick.
Rated R for graphic violence, language. In Spanish, with subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 28 minutes. In theaters. Please consult the guidelines outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before watching movies inside theaters.
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