• Time To Die




    Released by: Film Movement
    Released on: November 21st, 2017.
    Director: Arturo Ripstein
    Cast: Marga Lopez, Enrique Rocha, Jorge Martínez de Hoyos, Alfredo Leal
    Year: 1966
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    The Movie:

    The directorial debut of Mexcian filmmaker Arturo Ripstein, Time To Die tells the story of Juan Sayago (Jorge Martinez de Hoyos). When the film begins, he’s just returned to his home town after serving an eighteen-year stint behind bars for shooting a man in self-defense. He hopes to start over, but learns early on after reconnecting with his old bartender friend that the two sons of the man he killed, Pedro Trueba (Enrique Rocha) and his older brother Julián (Alfredo Leal), intend to avenge their father’s death.

    Regardless, Juan, who doesn’t even have a horse to call his own, intends to stay. He’s got reasons of his own, not the least of which is his intent to reconnect with Mariana (Marga López), the beautiful woman he left behind nearly two decades ago.

    Based on an original story by Nobel laureate Gabriel García Márquez ("One Hundred Years of Solitude"), with dialogue provided by Carlos Fuentes, Time To Die is a pretty impressive effort for a first time director. Granted, Ripstein didn’t go into this blind – a few years prior to this picture he’s worked as the uncredited assistant director on Luis Buñuel’s 1962 picture The Exterminating Angel, but that doesn’t diminish the fact that this is a very well-made picture. Shot in stark black and white and making use of some great, authentic small town Mexican locations, the picture is more of a slow burn, pensive character development piece than your average ‘shoot’em up’ western. That said, the deliberate speed at which the plot unfolds is appropriate for the story.

    Thankfully, the quality of the writing and the performances ensures that the picture is never dull. Jorge Martinez de Hoyos is very well cast in the lead. He doesn’t look or act particularly heroic. He’s not the most handsome cowboy to ever walk through the dusty towns of the old west, in fact, he’s very much an ‘every man’ which suits the part perfectly. As we learn more about his past and what put him in jail in the first place, all of this starts to make sense. Juan’s determination to stay in the town and not be chased out b the Trueba brothers becomes an important part of the story in the second half of the film and Martinez do Hoyos infuses his character with enough determination that we buy him in the part without any trouble. Also impressive are Enrique Rocha and Alfredo Leal. Rocha’s younger brother is the more understanding of the two. He’s open to the idea that maybe there’s more to the story than Julián is letting on. He’s likeable. Leal, as Julián, is also quite determined, never wavering in his conviction that in order to prove his manhood and live up to his father’s name, he must kill Sayago – he’s not interested in the truth. Marga López is also very good as Sayago’s love interest. She is quite sympathetic, we feel for her given the situation that she finds herself in.

    Wonderfully shot and composed, Ripstein’s film always looks great. The locations are spot on and some interesting, unorthodox camera angles are employed here and there to really make the film stand out from the countless other western films cranked out around in the decades prior.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Time To Die arrives on Blu-ray framed in its original 1.33.1 fullframe aspect ratio in an AVC encoded transfer taken from a new 2k restoration. Picture quality is quite good save for one issue, and that’s the presence of some vertical combing effects that are visible through some odd compression issues that pop up in some of the darker blacks in the film, and occasionally grain doesn’t resolve as well as it should (see screen cap #4 and look at the dress). Aside from that issue, the picture shows good detail, a fair amount of depth, and decent grey scale. There’s nice texture in much of the film and the image is fairly clean, showing only minor print damage.

    The Spanish language LPCM Mono track, which features optional English subtitles, is fine. Dialogue is clear, the score sounds quite good and there are no noticeable issues with any hiss or distortion to discuss. Things do sound a little flat in spots but that’s likely down to the original recording rather than an issue with the disc itself.

    The main extra on the disc is a commentary track, in Spanish with English subtitles, that gets director Arturo Ripstein and actor Enrique Rocha behind the microphone to discuss the making of the picture. The pacing here is very relaxed but the two remain quite engaged for the most part, with Ripstein talking about his experiences directing his first feature (he was only twenty-one when he made it!), the locations that were used in the picture and his experiences alongside many of the cast and crew members (quite a lot of whom are no longer with us). The track offers some nice insight into the early part of Ripstein’s directing career, with Rocha, who was quite young when he acted in the film, offering up his experiences on set as well.

    Also included on the disc is a seven-minute-long introduction provided by Alex Cox in which he talks about Ripstein’s work with Luis Bunuel, his own experiences interacting with the director during a stint in Mexico, references to The Searchers and other classic westerns and what makes Time To Die stand out even if Ripstein himself isn’t particularly fond of the picture.

    The disc also includes menus, chapter selection, a newly created trailer for the feature and trailers for a few other Blu-ray releases available from Film Movement. Also included inside the clear keepcase alongside the disc is a Film Movement catalogue and an insert booklet containing an essay on the history of the film written by Carlos A. Gutierrez

    The Final Word:

    Time To Die is a somber western, quite a bit more pensive and artistically inclined than your average picture from the genre, but it’s very well made and full of some excellent performances. The transfer is good and the extras are quite good. We don’t get a lot of vintage Mexican films on English friendly DVD, let alone Blu-ray, so it’s nice to see Film Movement take a chance with this title.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!