Way Back 2019

January 14, 2019 - Examining the Music in Cuarón's Roma Yields Several Non-Spanish Results

Roma, the latest from director (and writer, cinematographer and editor) Alfonso Cuarón, is the season's most critically acclaimed and heavily awarded film, certainly one of the all-time greatest from Mexico. Despite the lack of a formal music score, it contains around 40 excerpts of popular songs, mostly from the 1960s and '70s and mostly sung in Spanish! As the story progresses, many of them fly by quickly, stimulating curiosities and whetting appetites for answers. After seeing the movie twice and listening to nearly every song in its entirety, I've pinpointed several that that are are linked to cultures outside the Latin music world. Two big English-language hits are represented: "Yellow River" by British band Christie and "I Don't Know How to Love Him" by Hawaiian hitmaker Yvonne Elliman, introduced in the 1970 Andrew Lloyd Webber-Tim Rice rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar. One more in English, Gene Raskin's "Those Were the Days" (a folk song with roots in Russia), is aurally represented by Ray Conniff and the Singers' 1969 recording (instead of the version by Mary Hopkin that made the song a standard).

A French song worked its way into the background of the film: "Mamy Blue" (in the U.S. it's called "Mammy Blue"), penned by Hubert Giraud, is sung in its original language by Englishman Roger Whittaker. An Italian standard, "Quando M'innamoro" (written by Daniele Pace, Roberto Livraghi and Mario Panzeri) is performed in Spanish, translated as "Cuanda Me Enamoro," by Louisiana-born Latin singer Angélica María; north of the border (and in other global locations) the song is known by British composer Barry Mason's title "A Man Without Love," made famous by singer Engelbert Humperdinck. Finally, if you were unaware of the TV cartoon series El Festival de Porky (as I was), you know about it now! During the '60s and '70s, Warner Brothers' "Th-th-th-That's all, folks!" superstar, Porky Pig, had his own series of vintage shorts (with some new footage) dubbed for Mexican viewers and Roma points it out!