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Monday, September 17, 2012

Cantinflas Retro: Revisiting Mexico's King of Comedy

Posted By on Mon, Sep 17, 2012 at 6:28 PM


For a whole month, the San Antonio Public Library, the SA Public Library Foundation, and KLRN are presenting Cantinflas Retro: A Mario Moreno Centennial Retrospective, an exhibition of photographs and some of the films starred by Mario Moreno "Cantinflas" (1911-1993), the great Mexican comic.

Did Charles Chaplin actually said "Cantinflas is the greatest comedian alive!" after watching one of his Mexican films, as is widely reported? It's hard to tell, and good luck trying to find the actual source of the quote. But guess what: whether Chaplin said it or not, it's irrelevant: Cantinflas was the greatest comic produced in Mexico and the most international funnyman the Spanish-speaking world ever produced.

Just like some in the English world are still debating who the greatest comedian in history was (Chaplin or Buster Keaton), in Mexico some believe the immensely talented Tin-Tan (Germán Valdés) was the better comedian, but I respectfully disagree: Tin-Tan was to Cantinflas what the Rolling Stones were to the Beatles, but Cantinflas was the man, and no Latino comic was ever able to combine physical comedy, histrionics, sentiment, and drama better than Cantinflas. More than just creating a style, he even invented a word accepted into the official dictionary of the Spanish Royal Academy: the verb "cantinflear" (to Cantinflas). Cantinflas was an improv master and, unless you speak Spanish, you won't be able to fully grasp his amazing rhythm and timing. The guy was a natural, and his long ad-lib monologues during which he uttered a lot of words without actually saying anything were memorable and put him in a league all of his own. Here's Cantinflas in Soy un prófugo (1946) explaining his compadre all about "the theory of the atom." Don't worry about the words: listen to his rhythm.

Unfortunately, most of the films to be shown don't have English subtitles and the ones in English (Pepe and Around the World in 80 Days) not only are not a good representation of what Cantinflas was all about — they're plain bad. If you speak Spanish, go see them all. If you only speak English but are a serious student of the art of comedic timing, I recommend El bombero atómico and El bolero de Raquel.

Each film will be screened for free at a different branch of the library, and here's the schedule. Good luck, and enjoy the ride. — Enrique Lopetegui

La vuelta al mundo en 80 días (Around the World in 80 Days) (1956)

5:30pm Mon, Sep 17


6111 Rosedale Ct.

(210) 207-9220

Si yo fuera diputado (1952)

6:30pm Tue, Sep 18


600 Soledad

(210) 207-2500

Romeo y Julieta (1943)

Noon Sat, Sep 22


8700 Mystic Park

(210) 207-9060

Su Excelencia (1966)

1pm Sat, Sep 22

Collin Garden

200 N. Park

(210) 207-9120

El Circo (1943)

2pm Sat, Sep 22

Great Northwest

9050 Wellwood

(210) 207-9210

Pepe (1960)

5:30pm Mon, Sep 24

Thousand Oaks

4618 Thousand Oaks

(210) 207-9190


Los Tres Mosqueteros (1942)

2:30pm Sat, Sep 29


6307 Sun Valley

(210) 207-9240

El Padrecito (1964)

2:30pm Sat, Sep 29


1023 Ada St.

(210) 207-9170

El Bolero de Raquel (1957)

3pm Sat, Sep 29


233 Bushnell

(210) 207-9090

Gran Hotel (1944)

5:30pm Mon, Oct 1


13330 Kyle Seale Pkwy

(210) 207-9080

El Mago (1949)

6:30pm Tue, Oct 2


600 Soledad

(210) 207-2500

El Analfabeto (1961)

5:30pm Thu, Oct 4


20735 Wilderness Oak

(210) 207-2703

El Extra (1962)

6pm Thu, Oct 4


11441 Vance Jackson

(210) 207-9100

El Profe (1971)

1pm Sat, Oct 6


4134 Harry Wurzbach

(210) 207-9040

Caballero a la medida (1954)

2pm Sat, Oct 6


3134 Roosevelt Ave.

(210) 207-2704

El barrendero (1982)

2pm Sat, Oct 6

Las Palmas

515 Castroville Rd.

(210) 207-9200

Sube y baja (1959)

6pm Wed, Oct 10

Pan American

1122 W. Pyron Ave.

(210) 207-9150

El bombero atómico (1952)

2pm Thu, Oct 11


2200 W. Commerce

(210) 207-9160

El señor fotógrafo (1953)

2pm Sat, Oct 13


2803 Hunter Blvd.

(210) 207-9130

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