Victims of Sin

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Synopsis

A treasure of Mexico’s cinematic golden age, this deliriously plotted blend of gritty crime film, heart-tugging maternal melodrama, and mambo musical is a dazzling showcase for iconic star Ninón Sevilla. She brings fierce charisma and fiery strength to her role as a rumbera—a female nightclub dancer—who gives up everything to raise an abandoned boy, whom she must protect from his ruthless gangster father. Directed at a dizzying pace by filmmaking titan Emilio Fernández, and shot in stylish chiaroscuro by renowned cinematographer Gabriel Figueroa amid smoky dance halls and atmospherically seedy underworld haunts, Victims of Sin is a ferociously entertaining female-powered noir pulsing with the intoxicating rhythms of some of Latin America’s most legendary musical stars.

Picture 9/10

Emilio Fernandez’s Victims of Sin receives a new Blu-ray edition from The Criterion Collection, presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.37:1 on a dual-layer disc. This edition is sourced from a new 4K restoration, scanned from the 35mm original camera negative.

The final 1080p/24hz presentation looks phenomenal. It's a bit of a shame it didn’t receive a full 4K release, but this isn’t too surprising. The result is an unbelievably pristine presentation with a remarkably solid encode. Analyzing screen grabs and individual frames, it’s evident that this is one of their cleanest encodes lately. Although not perfect, any minor imperfections are unnoticeable in motion. The grayscale is impressively broad, showcasing a wide range in the black-and-white photography with clean gradations, even in shadows. Black levels are deep and rich, further enhancing the presentation..

The restoration work has significantly improved the image, leaving very little of note remaining. Grain is rendered cleanly, and details are sharp throughout. Although a few shots appear slightly softer, the overall image is crisp and clear. It looks unbelievably good.

Audio 7/10

The Spanish language monaural soundtrack, presented in lossless PCM, is surprisingly robust. Dialogue and most effects exhibit a modest amount of range and depth, while the musical numbers pack a bit more punch.

Extras 7/10

Criterion has put together a decent set of features, starting with a 17-minute interview with Viviana Garcia Besné. After briefly discussing her family and her work in film restoration (notably appearing in the extras for Indicator’s Enter Santo set further discussing the subject), she delves into the Cine de rumberas genre (a combo of musical, dance, and melodrama), and the film’s Cuban-born star, Ninón Sevilla and her popularity within the genre. This seamlessly leads into a 1983 episode of the television program Those Who Made Our Cinema, focusing on the history of the Rumbera films, with a particular emphasis on both Fernandez and Sevilla. Though Victims of Sin is mentioned, the program primarily highlights another critical film in the genre, also directed by Fernandez, called Salon Mexico. Interestingly, while the program is sourced from video, clips from that film appear to come from a new restoration, hinting that it might be released soon. The program runs just under half an hour.

Cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto also appears in a new 16-minute interview to discuss the work of Gabriel Figueroa. This segment delves into the technical details of Figueroa’s cinematography, covering aspects like his use of lighting, filters, and depth of field. Prieto also examines a few scenes from the film to illustrate how Fernandez and Figueroa staged the action, making for an insightful technical feature.

The disc concludes with a trailer advertising the new restoration, and the included insert features an essay by Jacqueline Avila, which covers the film after providing a brief history of Mexican cinema up to that point.

While a restoration demonstration would have been interesting, Criterion has successfully compiled a substantial set of academic material around the film and the Cine de rumberas genre.

Closing

It's a nicely assembled release with a superb high-def presentation.

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Directed by: Emilio Fernandez
Year: 1951
Time: 84 min.
 
Series: The Criterion Collection
Edition #: 1222
Licensor: Permanencia Voluntaria Archivo Cinematografico
Release Date: June 18 2024
MSRP: $39.95
 
Blu-ray
1 Disc | BD-50
1.37:1 ratio
Spanish 1.0 PCM Mono
Region A
 
 New interview with filmmaker and archivist Viviana García Besné   New interview with cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto on the work of Gabriel Figueroa   Archival documentary on cine de rumberas, featuring interviews with actor Ninón Sevilla   Trailer   An essay by scholar Jacqueline Avila