New Order: When class warfare goes bad

Controversial Mexican drama about elites versus the mob

The high-society wedding at the start of New Order has a misleading Bunuelian feel to it

Film Title: New Order

Director: Michel Franco

Starring: Naian Gonzalez Norvind, Diego Boneta, Mónica Del Carmen, Fernando Cuautle, Darío Yazbek, Eligio Meléndez

Genre: Sci-Fi

Running Time: 86 min

Fri, Aug 13, 2021, 05:00

   

Who will watch the watchdogs? In the opening scenes of the animated imperialist fantasy Paw Patrol: The Movie, new recruit Liberty uses the threat of force to enforce one law before wilfully ignoring a rule that is not to her liking. She subsequently calls in the private canine militia of the title to challenge her city’s Trumpian, albeit legitimate, mayor. 

Surprisingly, this crypto-fascist adventure may not be this week’s most politically problematic release.

New Order is not a biopic concerning the band that formed from the ashes of Joy Division, but a hugely controversial Mexican-French dystopian thriller from After Lucia director Michel Franco. Flames were fanned when the film was criticised for its undeniable “classist, racist and painfully stereotypical portraits of upper and lower classes in Mexico”, prompting Franco to characterise himself as a victim of “hate crimes” as a white Mexican. 

Away from this zero-sum game played out on social media platforms, New Order remains a dubious drama populated by sympathetic if sketchily drawn elites and an undifferentiated and othered mob. The conflict is, admittedly, commendably unflinching in a way that recalls the fierce, anti-entertainment punches of Michael Haneke. The underlying politics, however, are a source of discomfort. 

Not all of the 1 per cent, trumpets every sequence.

It’s a shame, too, as there’s a verve and flair underlying Franco’s scenes of violent class backlash. There’s a misleading Bunuelian feel to the opening sequence in which a high-society wedding is violently interrupted by Mexico City’s have-nots, a tone that swiftly transforms into something far less picaresque. 

An unexpected appearance from a former servant (Eligio Meléndez) – who turns up on the doorstep of his former employers to beg for financial help for his dying wife – establishes the indifference of the ruling class and provides a fateful detour for the newlywed Marianne (Naian González Norvind). 

 The revolution that ensues is swiftly unmasked as a mass shakedown, with methods of extortion that will not surprise viewers of Franco’s disturbing After Lucia, in which a teenage girl is “ruined’ by a filmed sexual encounter. Cinematographer Yves Cape’s shocking spectacles and Oscar Figueroa Jara’s unnerving editing energise the writer-director’s cynicism, which is steadfast and bleak enough to make Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker look like Cesar Romero’s Adam West baiter. 

It remains a fascinating, stylish, uncompromising thriller for all its repugnant prejudices: punk rock movie-making for the ruling elite. 

In select cinemas from August 13th