Tuesday, Digital Gym Cinema hosts a single screening of the gorgeous 4K restoration of the 1951 Mexican film noir "Victims of Sin." Take advantage of this rare opportunity to see it on the big screen.
Havana-born Ninón Sevilla is less an actress and more a force of nature. In a series of Mexican films in the 1950s she captivated audiences with her blonde bombshell looks and sensual dancing.
In "Victims of Sin," she plays Violeta, a cabaret performer that we first meet by seeing her dance. Her number tells us all we need to know: she's full of passion and talent, and we can't take our eyes off of her.
She's a rising star at a club when one of the local girls abandons her illegitimate baby in a trash can. Violeta is so outraged that she slaps the mother around and then goes to rescue the child, which she takes in as her own. But her insistence on keeping the baby and even bringing him into work prompts the club owner to fire her so she takes to the street to survive.
Mexican director Emilio Fernández mixes an intoxicating cocktail of seductive film noir, lush melodrama, cabaret numbers, and Catholic redemption.
The 4K restoration highlights the incandescent beauty of both Sevilla and Gabriel Figueroa's black and white cinematography. There are multiple musical numbers, a couple of which are shot in an intensely intimate style.
In contrast to a lot of American noir, this film does not have a femme fatale orchestrating the downfall of hapless men but rather gives us a fallen woman with a heart of gold. The melodrama sucks us in but the noir underpinnings add a gritty edge. Another contrast with American noir is how religion, specifically Catholicism, impacts the story. Most American noir is devoid of religion and sometimes even of a sense of morality. But Fernández invests the film with a very Catholic sensibility. Although he is also critical of society morays and how "respectable" folks judge Violeta.
The cabaret backdrop lets Sevilla and the musicians shine as they mix African, Caribbean, and Cuban styles. The restoration also finally translates and subtitles some naughty songs so you can more fully enjoy them.
Plus we get to see vibrant female characters who display surprising agency.
Treat yourself to an early holiday gift and go see this film.