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Fox Home Entertainment presents
Without a Trace (Sin Dejar Huella) (2000)

"You'll see how happy we'll be. A whole new different life."
- Aurelia (Tiaré Scanda)

Review By: Rich Rosell  
Published: February 25, 2004

Stars: Tiaré Scanda, Aitana Sánchez-Gijon
Other Stars: Jesús Ochoa, Martín Altomaro, Silverio Palacios
Director: María Novaro

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (language, brief nudity and violence)
Run Time: 01h:50m:20s
Release Date: February 03, 2004
UPC: 024543090670
Genre: drama


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- B-B+B F

DVD Review

The "buddy road picture" genre, whereby two mismatched characters take an arduous journey only to discover not only themselves but each other, is certainly not anything new or original; it has been done before and it will be done again. One of the often cited mainstream examples is Ridley Scott's 1991 feminist anthem Thelma and Louise, in which Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis take off in a 1966 Thunderbird in a desperate attempt to break free of their individually oppressive lives, with the law on their tail and eventual martyrdom on the horizon. That brings us to writer/director María Novaro's 2000 release Sin Dejar Huella (Without a Trace), a film that on the surface bears a handful of initial similarities to Thelma and Louise, similarities that disappear almost immediately upon viewing.

This genre demands two disparate souls, opposites that may or may not attract, to work properly, and Novaro has raised the bar by actually giving us a pair of living, breathing characters that are not merely one-dimensional ciphers. Aurelia (Tiaré Scanda) is young single mother, working in a sweatshop and struggling to raise an infant and a six-year-old. She's in an on-again-off-again relationship with her drug-dealing ex, Saúl (Martín Altomaro), and when a resort job opportunity arises in far off Cancún, Aurelia sees this as a chance to rise out of her stifling existence. She swipes Saul's hidden cache of drug money, and after leaving her six-year-old with her sister, sets off with her infant son across Mexico.

Novaro parallels the setup of Aurelia's plight with that of Marilu (Aitana Sánchez-Gijon), a well-educated dealer of fake Mayan art, who also happens to be the sexual obsession of bloated and lecherous federale Mendizabel (Jesús Ochoa), a man who stalks Marilu like a predator. After dodging a couple of Mendizabel's henchmen sent to track her, Marilu crosses paths with Aurelia at a dingy roadside diner in Hidalgo, and the two strike up a business-like arrangement to travel together to Cancún. Novaro interjects a bit of suspense by having the two women pursued by a mysterious red car, and it purposely remains unclear for a long while whether their pursuers are the federales who are after Marilu or Aurelia's jilted ex.

With the setup of the potentially tired "buddy/road" premise in place, Novaro does the unthinkable and actually constructs and executes a warm, sometimes softly comic journey, filled not just with the expected bickering and revelations, but of unadulterated visual beauty. It is easy to see that Novaro was not just attempting to tell a story here, and that this is the stylish work of a real filmmaker, and not just a director; it is a travelogue of rural, back roads Mexico that is laden with an array of lush vistas and dusty small towns, bursting with greens, golds and browns and a soundtrack spiced with regional Tejano music. The strong performances by Tiaré Scanda and Aitana Sánchez-Gijon are almost in constant battle not to be overshadowed by the work of Novaro's cinematographer Sergei Saldívar Tanaka, and the locales used here beautifully show off a Mexico that very few ever really have the opportunity to see.

And that is where the real surprise comes in with Sin Dejar Huella, in the way that Novaro has not only made such a truly lyrical and visually attractive film, which in some director's hands would have been more than enough, but has also managed to find two lead actresses who can convey centered, believable emotions and almost immediately make the viewer care about what happens to them. Scanda and Sánchez-Gijon both portray strong-willed, independent women balanced with a kind of frailty that makes them both similar and yet very different from the other. And it is their slowly building and tenuous friendship that makes their scenes together so compelling and watchable; it is the joy in the simple art of conversation, rather than the occasionally contrived moments with the mysterious red car, that make Novaro's narrative so unexpectedly enjoyable.

Novaro, who came into prominence with Danzon (1991), another bit of inspired pro-female filmmaking, is one of the pioneering female directors in Mexico, and 20th Century Fox has issued Sin Dejar Huella (Without a Trace) as part of its relatively new Cinema Latino series of discs. It should be noted that the English title of Without a Trace is strictly a marketing add-on here, as the film is presented in its original Spanish, with optional English subtitles; in fact, the only place the words Without a Trace appear are on the DVD cover art.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Fox has issued Sin Dejar Huella in a smart-looking 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, one that really does poetic justice to the captivating cinematography of Sergei Saldívar Tanaka. Colors are well-saturated and robust, with a consistently bright palette of greens and golds; similarly image detail is crisp and sharp across the board. No major compression issues, but the front grilles on some vehicles reveal some shimmer and ringing, though not to the point of distraction.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Spanishno


Audio Transfer Review: Here's another Fox title that shows off how a simple 2.0 stereo track is not necessarily a bad thing. Character voices , and the ever present Tejano music, have a resonance and range not typically found on a lot of lesser stereo tracks, and some occasional pronounced bass (as with the rumbling engine of the red car that dogs the two leads throughout the film) adds a bit of breadth of the overall sound stage.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 32 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in Spanish, English with remote access
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring Lucia, Lucia, Cinema Latino
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Other than a couple of trailers, all that's here are 32 chapter stops.

Extras Grade: F

 

Final Comments

It may bear superficial comparisons to Thelma and Louise, but María Novaro's Sin Dejar Huella (Without a Trace) is more character-driven film than was Ridley Scott's marginally cartoonish bit of over-the-top feminism, and the way she captures the beauty of Mexico is a sight to behold.

Recommended.

 


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