Friday, August 27, 2004

M5 El Marcardo Negro: Why Rent when You Can Buy?

It’s our next to last night in town and Florian, my new German friend, and I have some shopping to do before we meet up with his wife at Las Mananitas (the little hands), one of Mexico’s finest restaurants located here in Cuernavaca.

It’s famous because the food is fabulous and it has lush gardens that are patrolled by colorful giant peacocks that will take a bite of your food if you give them the opportunity.

Sounds a little bit like the Mexican Police – but that’s another story.

I had learned about “el Marcado Negro” at dinnertime over hushed voices the first night I was in town. Bill, a fellow house guest made the Black Market seem like it was some forbidden place that was difficult to find unless you were in the know as he apparently was. Apparently, he couldn’t recall the intricate directions to the market.

I would just have to find it on my own.

The truth of the matter, I was to find out, is it’s hard not to find the black market. Markets are everywhere and they resemble “flea markets” in the USA except they sell new bootleg stuff known as “piratas”.

Stuff like CD’s for a dollar and DVD’s for half what you would pay to rent them at Blockbuster (which is here as well). Would you go to Blockbuster if you lived near the black market?

Why rent, when you can buy?

If you like Diesel jeans, like I do, they’re yours for $11. Next time I decide to blow upwards of $200 on jeans from Diesel’s unadvertised Denim Lab in SOHO, I’ll think twice, save my money for a plane ticket and then I’ll come back with a suit case of Diesel clothing.

Now, if you’ve just moved to Mexico and are worried that you are going be without “American” culture for a year, fret not, the black market is your kind of place. You won’t miss any movies – not even ones that are just hitting stateside cinemas right now.

Want to see Will Smith in “I, Robot” – it’s here but it’s called “Yo, Robot”. YO ROBOT!!! But don’t worry, it’s still in English because the film is so new, they haven’t even had time to dub it. Most of the films are in English with Spanish subtitles. We were hoping the DVD technology would allow us to listen in Spanish with English subtitles, but alas the DVD’s are not quite what they are back home.

What do you expect for the price of a grande frappucino?

In fact, most of the DVD’s are actually “VCD’s”. Other than knowing that stands for “Video CD”, I don’t know what the hell one of these things is. All I know is it doesn’t play on my computer, but I witnessed it being played on the vendadora’s (seller’s) DVD test station.

Yes, you may test drive before you buy here. If, for some absurd reason, you thought for a moment that you were about to purchase an inferior quality product, you may test the DVD/VCD of your choice in the vendor’s DVD player to prove such spurious assumptions false.

Florian had a whole list of films he wanted to buy. I had a general idea, knowing that I wanted mostly films with a Mexican or Spanish theme. We decided to go in together and purchase a whole slew and then share, but not first without making sure we were getting the best possible quality for our $4.00USD.

We ask for a screening of a Mexican film I haven’t heard of. She slides it into the DVD player which swallows the disk whole. She presses play and when we inquire in Spanish as to whether we can listen in Spanish and read subtitles in English. She absolves herself of all responsibility for such technical questions and in a symbolic gesture, she hands me the remote control.

I mess around with the menu settings and Florian and I have a conversation as I fumble with the controls that went something like this:

Florian “It looks kind of blurry, is this a ‘50’s porn flick?”
Brian “No dude, that’s a special effect, yes, it’s grainy and blue, that’s the idea”
Florian “Why is it flickering?”
Brian in a moment of realization “Oh, it’s been filmed on a camcorder inside a theatre”.
Florian “You’re right”
Brian and Florian - laughter

We toss that one back and she hands us “7 Mujeres (women), un Homosexual y (and) Carlos”. We decline to screen that one.

But we did manage to get good copies of “Farenheit 911”, “Y Tu Mama Tambien” and “Frida”.

Interestingly, while most Mexican-themed films were featured prominently in the stalls, Frida was nowhere to be found. Well, she could be found everywhere on postcards, handbags, balloons and just about anything else, but not on DVD. Maybe they have a conscience and feel badly about bootlegging their national heroine.

Or maybe not. On our last and final attempt we finally found her.

The disks themselves are obviously unique, one of-a-kind creations. They’re hand-labeled with sharpies “Disk 1” and “Disk 2”.

During a screening of the new Tom Cruise flick, the bottom half of the screen was emblazoned with the text “If you are watching this film and have not received the DVD from an authorized source, please contact 1-800-555-1234. Your call will remain strictly anonymous”.

Do you think they’ll pick up the international cellular roaming fees? My guess is no. The warning disappears shortly thereafter.

DVD’s are not under any system of organization. I had to laugh when next to Disney’s “Mulan” I saw a film entitled “XXX: Tons of Tits”.

Some times I wonder; where is the sense of irony? But that what is nice about Mexico. Completely unselfconscious. Completely devoid of irony.

Completely fabulous.

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