Apparently the time of cholera was a simpler time, a time in which men only had the brains to think of one thing through the duration of their lives and women wanted nothing so much as a male body to fulfill their one and only longing. I haven’t looked into it yet, but it’s self-evident that the literary material from which the film was adapted was written by a male. I’ve now looked into it, and it’s been confirmed. The film is more than merely glossy, utilizing apparently on-location shooting, the work of a competent cinematographer, and maintaining a consistent look and style throughout. Films that don’t delve deeply below their surfaces, however, render their surfaces especially vulnerable to critique. So, despite its obviousness, it must be stated that the facial makeup work in this film leaves so much to be desired. Wanting to keep Javier Bardem and Giovanna Mezzogiorno in as much of the story as possible, Mike Newell avoided casting elderly actors to replace the protagonists. This led to an artifice at the film’s core (the characters) that contrasted with and subtracted from the lush perfection of the physical surroundings.
As for the aforementioned simplicity of the characters, their preoccupations were so transparent that a second screening of the film seems unnecessary, which is universally a bad thing in cinema. Bardem’s character not only makes the average male one-track mind pale in comparison, but makes his own obsession positively virtuous, despite his innumerable (yet somehow numbered) infidelities and failures as a man. It seems likely that Newell’s typical American point-of-view of the Hispanic male as a sort of noble savage lover and little more took over this film. While it’s possible that the source material, written by an Hispanic, does the same, Newell’s adaptation itself bears witness to this popular image among white Americans. See Johnny Depp’s parody of Don Juan in Don Juan deMarco: an average guy (named John R. DeMarco) who thinks he’s the infamous Latino lover. This comedic image of the Hispanic male appeals to white Americans and confirms their stereotypes that, like the misogynist black man, the professorial German man, the aristocratic Brit, and the naive Asian, the Hispanic man is an overly-serious, drunk-on-testosterone Casanova whose very accent can and will immediately bed any female under the sun. Mezzogiorno’s character plays some serious hard-to-get in this film, which eventually proves that even fifty-one years, marriage to another, and ubiquitous wrinkles are no match for that deadpan face and saucy accent. Is it good or bad that the Coens cast Bardem in the same year as the exact same character, only with a murderous obsession rather than an amorous one?