The black and white cinematography of Bleak Street sets the mood. There is no brightness or cheer in the Mexico City neighborhood in which it is set. This is a world in which gray is the dominant color. The characters live in desperation and on the fringes of the fringe. There is little or no hope for those who live here—only the possibility (or perhaps the curse) of surviving another day.
The story revolves around a pair of aging prostitutes, Dora and Adela, who are no longer sent to the busier corners where they could get work. Both have issues going on at home that make their life even more miserable. There is also a focus on a pair of midget lucha libre wrestlers, Little Death and Little AK. They are twins who serve as “shadows” for a pair of full size wrestlers. Little Death and Little AK wear their masks at all time. These two story lines eventually intersect with tragic consequences. Through it all there is a sense of destiny being played out. The characters have lives that seem to have been fated to bring them to this point. From time to time one of them will talk about how whatever happens is what is meant to happen.
I can understand why a filmmaker would be attracted to this story. It is a film that plumbs the depth of human sorrow. It is not about depravity, but rather about the desperation that fills the world in the kinds of settings these characters find themselves. Each has his or her own burdens that have brought them to this point. And the idea of the way destiny has shaped them and continues to do so is a concept that can be fruitful to explore.
I wonder more about the audience for the film. Certainly those who frequent art houses are used to dark, depressing films without happy endings. But there are not a lot of people who really want to see just how dark the world can be. To be sure, this film has its qualities: the visual use of light and shadows fits perfectly with the story; the treatment of the characters as frail and broken rather than as flawed or sinful. There is an artfulness to this film that many will appreciate. Some will appreciate the humanity of the characters and mourn their fate. Some will ponder the role destiny plays in the tragedies of life. But all who brave this film (and some will see the value in doing so) will journey through darkness that may feel overwhelming.
Photos courtesy of Leisure Time Features