Film Review: New Order (dir. Michel Franco)
Michel Franco’s New Order is a frenetic portal into a (fictional) civil war. Edited with a strong, propulsive energy, it’s a film that traverses political and social themes, focusing on race and class in ways that are hardly subtle, yet thoroughly engaging. This is potent filmmaking from an exciting filmmaker that feels fresh with ideas and alive with righteous anger at the greater world.
Set somewhere in Mexico (although its vagueness to this point is likely meant to imply it could be anywhere in Central or South America), New Order details a sort of coup d’etat as it unfolds virtually in real time against a wedding party of an affluent family. The party is the sort where the rich kids do coke in the back and the well-to-do perform business exchanges over hors d’oeuvres. Meanwhile, a former employee, Rolando (Eligio Meléndez), begs for money in their driveway so that his wife can afford surgery, manoeuvring his tactics so that the eldest daughter and that day’s well-to-do bride, Marianne (Naian Gonzâlez Norvind)—the most aware of this family’s privilege—will help where the greed of her relatives stopped short. It’s then that all hell breaks loose.
Little is gleaned as to the true nature of the siege that takes over this architectural paradise first and soon the entire city. Like many uprisings, there appears to be little rhyme or reason to its escalating violence. Although, as we should all know, there is more to it than meets the eyes. And as Marianne seeks refuge in the home of her family’s housekeeper, the city erupts into flames, engulfed now by military rule that is all too willing to take violent, sexual, reactionary advantage of the situation.
If its politics appear sketchy, then that would appear to be entirely on purpose. While some may suggest it comes at its story with an all-too convenient ‘both sides’ defence, there is a ferocity to the directing—amplified by the editing of Franco and Óscar Figueroa, as well as the sharp and focused cinematography of Yves Cape—that hints at all-round rage and contempt for our present-day society. A rage-filled nihilism that packs a punch whether you like it or not.
New Order lacks the more sophisticated critiques of a Parasite, but manages to find its own unique wavelength upon which is balances its many threads. The two will be obviously positioned together, although beyond their readings of the lower class crashing the (literal) parties of their capitalist masters, there is little to suggest they belong side by side beyond their subtitles and western audience's natural conflation of 'foreign' as one big monolithic societal structure. Whatever the case, I was enraptured. Franco, who also wrote the script and co-produces, hmas made a tightly-wound thriller that doesn't present answers, or even too any questions. It allows us to watch and observe and recognise the world around ourselves in its image.