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Episode 37 - Esmeralda Comes By Night

posted Jun 16, 2018, 1:27 PM by Joreth InnKeeper   [ updated Jun 16, 2018, 1:28 PM ]

Esmeralda Comes By Night (1997) 
www.imdb.com/title/tt0125061/ - Internet Movie Data Base
www.netflix.com/title/70045338 - Netflix
http://amzn.to/2vTd1kD  - Amazon

I'm not sure, but I'm reasonably confident that I did not get this movie from an online poly movie list, and instead it came from one of Netflix's recommendations based on when I added other poly movies. If this is the case, then Netflix deserves some serious thanks. Not only did I like this movie, but it actually was poly!
"Bewitching, passionate and beautiful, Esmeralda is happily married -- to five husbands! But just as she's about to marry groom No. 6, she's charged with polygamy. She reveals her reasons for marrying each husband to stern Judge Solorio, who -- like Esmeralda's spouses -- is no match for her charms. Meanwhile, her husbands conspire to break her out of jail, and feminists demonstrate in her defense."
This movie was charmingly campy. It wasn't *brilliantly* campy, like I might say for Bruce Campbell where the camp is a finely tuned sense of humor and understanding of the subject matter. This movie was campy in the Mama's Family sort of way - cheesy and goofy with a godawful fashion sense, but with the occasional flash of insightful social commentary.

Full disclosure: I liked Mama's Family and I'm well known for liking truly awful movies. In my opinion, there is a difference between "quality" and "enjoyable". A movie can be both, but it can also be only one or the other. I find many of the "classics" in art (literature, paintings, music, etc.) fall under the "quality" category but do not fall under the "enjoyable" category for me.

But anyway, the movie is exactly as the summary says. A woman is kneeling at the alter at her 6th wedding when the cops show up and arrest her for "quintuple bigamy" and the rest of the film is about Esmeralda's stories to the judge regarding each of her five husbands - how they met, what she likes about them, what they have to do with each other, etc.

There were 2 elements that made this movie particularly enjoyable for me. The first is the method they used to tell Esmeralda's stories. They didn't use the standard methods that I'm used to, like Wayne & Garth's wavy dissolve, or changing the color temperature of the scene (i.e. going to black and white, or making some scenes tinted green and others tinted orange), or fuzzy edges like viewing through a foggy window frame. What this movie did was to make the movie audience (the judge, the secretary/notes-taker, the witnesses, etc.) participate in the flashback scene.

For example, I'll explain the very first flashback. The scene was set in the flashback, in this case, in the park where Esmeralda met her almost-6th husband. As she sat on the bench with him, the judge's desk sat in the park next to her, and the secretary sat in front of her with the typewriter, and Esmeralda went through the motions as if she were really there with her beau while simultaneously speaking to the judge as she explained what was happening.

Each scene was slightly differently styled. Sometimes there was less direct conversation between Esmeralda and her audience, sometimes the action happened in the courtroom instead of the original location. But it was always the mixture of flashback and current circumstances. And I really liked the effect it had.

The other element that made this movie for me was a bit of dialog between Esmeralda and the judge. The writers managed to take every single online flame war, every single argument with conservative parents, every single self-righteous religious objection to polyamory, and the responses to them, and put them all into a single exchange between the judge and Esmeralda. "You should be ashamed", "you're ruining society", "you're promiscuous", "you're hurting people" - it was all there.

Now, I have a few little quibbles about a few details of the story, and if anyone really wants to get into them with me, I'm happy to do so. But I think the main qualifications for the Poly-ish Movie List are met and I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the film in spite of thinking it wasn't a "quality" movie. The film includes multiple relationships that are based in love, it includes social and religious pressure (not necessarily in the direction you might be thinking), and it includes the metamours consent as well as negative consequences when someone doesn't consent. It also includes shifting attitudes when faced with exposure to opposing viewpoints, again, not necessarily in the direction you might be thinking.

I have 1 major quibble about this movie, and it was the final 2 scenes. I don't want to give away the ending, so I'll just say that if you watch this movie, when you get to the "picnic" at the end, I wish the movie had stopped there. The final two-ish scenes are just completely out of left field (whether the conversation with the judge and Esmeralda immediately following the picnic counts as part of "the final two-ish scenes" is a fuzzy matter). It's almost as if the last couple of scenes were directed and written by two different people, both of whom were not the director/writer of the rest of the movie, and who were each told that they were directing a movie in a completely different genre than the rest of the film. One of these replacement directors was a Fred Astaire buff, and the other was a horror movie fan. These two scenes were just so jarring, that I prefer to think of the movie as having ended at the "picnic".

But in spite of those truly bizarre, extraneous ending scenes, I still really liked the movie and I still recommend it if you like cheesy films. And, quibbles about lies and omissions aside, I think this movie definitely qualifies as a poly movie!



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