CASTLE OF PURITY (Arturo Ripstein, 1973)

Enervating, only dimly surreal family melodrama written unsteadily and unconvincingly by José Emilio Pacheco and the director, Arturo Ripstein, El castillo de la pureza claims multiple sources: reality—I’m afraid here is another of those nonsensical “true stories,” this one based on a fellow and his family in Mexico City in the 1950s; novelist Luis Spota’s 1964 La carcajada del gato; playwright Sergio Magaña’s 1966 Los motivos del lobo. Claudio Brook (Buñuel’s Simon of the Desert, 1965) plays Gabriel Lima, who has kept wife Beatriz a prisoner for 18 years, along with their three children, whom he has turned into a busy factory testing and manufacturing homemade rat poisons that he hucksters throughout the city. Their current abode is a vast, dilapidated mansion; Gabriel’s aim is to protect his family from the corrupting influences of the outside world.
     Current contraptions, advertised in television commercials, are beginning to make his potions against rats obsolete; moreover, his children, two of them teens, are beginning to contest his iron-clad authority and severe corporal punishment, which includes solitary confinement in dungeon-like cells and beatings with a strap. His children had once been a source of hope: his son, Porvenir—the future; his daughters, Utopia and Voluntad—willpower. But like all reactionaries, Gabriel has dug his mind into the past, and now he is losing his mind. He unmercifully assaults Beatriz, still jealous after all these years of her boyfriends before he and she ever met; and it does his tranquility no good that, having no other options, his two teenagers make out with one another. Like everything else, Gabriel blames this on Beatriz. His motto: “Women are to blame for everything.”
     Thin, repetitious, tedious, this film is nothing that Mexican cinema has any right to be proud of.

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