11/03/2010 03:11 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Starz Film Fest Insider's Guide: La Pantera Negra

Donnybrook reviewed films playing the Starz Denver Film Festival this week on a 100 star system. Why? Because our opinion counts 20 times more than most peoples'. Today we reviewed the surreal Mexican film noir, La Pantera Negra (The Black Panther). Synopsis by Fritz Godard.

La Pantera Negra: 82.25 stars

La Pantera Negra begins with a telephone call from God to hire a private detective, and that is the sanest thing that happens during the entire movie. Keep in mind this is not a film noir villain that happens to call himself 'God,' but the actual God of Catholics and Mexico alike. He asks the drunk gumshoe, Nico Beamonte, to find the mysterious Black Panther with the reward of 50k a month for life. The protag is skeptical, but when God questions his talent, Nico jumps at the chance to find the Black Panther.

Then the film begins its strange spiral into the surrealism that involves a murdered jockey and horse, a bar with a black panther head for a door, a gringo obsessed with his daughter's lesbian tendencies, Death as a sultry lounge singer, a mariachi ghost, and let's see, oh yes, space aliens. All this takes place in a film noir setting with Spanish subtitles. The shots are tight and dark and the crazy mood is set by noir period set pieces. It's nearly impossible for a film with this many off-the-wall elements to not lose its way from time to time, but the journey from the simple request by God to the life-or-death necessity to find La Pantera Negra is a fun festival ride.

Angora says: This is like if film noir and magical realism had a baby. A mariachi ghost alien baby wearing a cowboy hat. I absolutely loved it. The bizarre, flashy supernatural elements mixed into seedy bars and dark hotel rooms embodies what I love about Mexican culture so much= vividity. Is that a word? It is now. La Pantera Negra is funny, it's intriguing, and I want to watch it again.

Fritz says: I can imagine that this film's favorite film is Sin City, if Sin City was directed by David Lynch. La Pantera Negra is the definition stylistic; it's so flashy you can't help but be fascinated by what's happening on the screen. However, the style takes a little away from the comedy of a film that features God wearing a cowboy hat and sunglasses.

Father Guido says: I was excited for The Black Panther from the logline and it (mostly) delivered. I mean, how could something as original as a sci-fi Mexican noir not grab your attention? Unfortunately, at about the hour and 20 minute mark, every minute that went by proved the concept of diminishing returns.

Antoine von Frankenstein: La Pantera Negra makes beautiful use of the black and white image with very stylish low-key lighting schemes, often filling nearly the entire frame with shadow and leaving just a few small pools of light so we can make out what's going on. True to the genre, this film contained many classic elements of noir flicks from the 1940's and 50's; the cunning but flawed private eye, the femme fatal, a smokey night club. Oh, and of course God in Ray-bans, Martians, and the ghost of a legendary Mexican music icon. You might want to pose the question "Why?!" when swamp thing steps down from a UFO, but don't - it'll be more fun this way.


Fri, Nov 5th @ 6:15 PM, Starz FilmCenter *
Tues, Nov 9th @ 6:30 PM, Denver FilmCenter/Colfax
Wed, Nov 10th @ 9:30 PM, Starz FilmCenter


* Advance tix sold out. Tickets may be available 1 hour prior to show time.