The Man from Acapulco

John Parker, July 5

The Man from Acapulco (Le Magnifique) 1973. This French Bond farce featuring Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jacqueline Bisset sets the stage nicely for the films that follow, particularly with respect to the social mores of the films’ eras. It has “fiesta’ written all over it: Mexico is sun, dancing, tight pants, over-sized sombreros, and mariachi singing. Bandidos are shot out of trees and are seemingly unorganized as they attack the protagonists in large numbers. This film is so 70s, clothing and hairstyles, and roles, particularly of women. The writer, as poor and slovenly as he is, has an uneducated maid who checks in on him daily; she even encourages his written output of pure crap and sympathizes with his predicament of loneliness and outright rudeness, and speaks with an accent in French, like the electrician and plumbers, that suits her station. She is a 70s cliché in her gender role, along with much of the film’s setting. I lived in France for several years and taught French for 30, so I understand the use of language and accent in the film, and expect accent, an exaggerated accent in particular, to be an important feature of the films to come. When Belmondo says “merde” (shit) to sound like “maid,” she answers “yes.” I’m anticipating broken English sprinkled with “sí, señor” and “ay ay ay.”

The typical 70s Bond films featured British actor Roger Moore jumping into cars in exotic tropical surroundings that included swimming pools, hungry sharks, scuba divers, diabolical kingpins. As a British agent Bisset speaks French with a thick English accent, inconsistently, as does Belmondo, at certain times, when he really plays the part. The Albanian language-accent ploy is laughable but common as a cinematic/theatrical device to bring out the “them,” who is unorganized and inefficient, the bandidos, the unconvincing seduction of Bisset by the author’s editor/kingpin, mariachis standard tunes (my dad’s favourite, didn’t hear it, is “Guadalajara”). When Jon mentioned the “south of the border anything goes” mental framework in Americans last night I couldn’t help but think of the “south” in American literature, especially William Faulkner, or more recently Cormac McCarthy, where south is backward and “outside the conventions of civilization,” making south of the border even further south, even further “free” of civilization, even more Beverley Hillbillies-like, John Steinbeck’s Oakies-like. Nobody notices the telephone booth hoisted into the air by the helicopter; the music keeps playing, the dancers dancing, the sun shining.

3 thoughts on “The Man from Acapulco

  1. Jon

    ” Nobody notices the telephone booth hoisted into the air by the helicopter; the music keeps playing, the dancers dancing, the sun shining.”

    Yes, this is a good point, and it emphasizes again that in terms of the plot Latin America is mere setting. But it does ask us what changing a “setting” accomplishes, and what is “mere” about setting, in so far as it explores what happens when a story is displaced from one environment (here, Paris) to another (here, Mexico).

  2. sgo

    I laughed out loud reading the part of your blog where you mention that your dad’s favorite marachi song is Guadalajara, it’s also my dad’s favorite (probably because he is from there) and he always belts it out. Now you have to go listen to it!

  3. Nayid Contreras

    Hi John,
    I also agree with your interpretation of that ‘South of the border’ there seems to be no civilization and therefore anything goes. To add to that, you can see that in The Man from Acapulco, many of the shooting that appeared to be in public places, many times the Mexican people appear to be walking without worry and the shooting does not worry them.
    I liked your observation of the French accent and how there was a direct and premeditated effort by the actors to create a play in words with it.


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