The president’s son-in-law, married to the strongman’s favorite daughter, is leading a double life. By day, he’s a rising political star, with his eyes set on achieving greater power, and by night, he carouses at salons and orgies as a member of a secret brotherhood of closeted gay gents who call themselves The 41.
Events following the arrival of handsome member 42 are what lead to the group’s very public downfall in Dance of the 41 (★★★★☆), the steamy fictionalized account of a real-life scandal that rocked Mexican high society in 1901.
Alfonso Herrera, so good on Sense8 as the lover of a closeted action star, is excellent here as the son-in-law with a secret, Ignacio de la Torre. At first, Ignacio’s new wife, Amada Díaz (Mabel Cadena), suspects little of her husband’s late-night wanderings.
The daughter of Mexico’s president Porfirio Díaz (Fernando Becerril), Amada believes Ignacio merely works hard as a congressman. Dearly longing to start their family, she only begins to suspect something’s amiss as her husband becomes less and less cooperative in their lovemaking.
Director David Pablos stages the husband and wife’s uncomfortable attempts at coupling with maximum awkward effect, especially well-acted by Cadena. Her Amada is innocent, but no fool, and, ultimately, no pushover, either. And Ignacio, though our protagonist, is no hero. He’s a liar and a cheat.
Opposite Amada’s steely determination, his roguish nonchalance hardens into coldness. Only among The 41 does Ignacio radiate warmth, and only with the man who’s stolen his heart, Evaristo Rivas (Emiliano Zurita), does he really seem to know love.
Ignacio invites Evaristo to join the club as member 42, and amid the orgiastic abandon of clandestine parties, the pair finds true romance. The problem is, Amada loves her husband, too — or at least won’t let him go without a fight.
As gossip about Ignacio and Evaristo heats up around town, Amada digs in her heels even further. So, rather than a Brokeback romance between two star-crossed male lovers, the film gels into a fierce battle of wills between husband and wife.
Smartly scripted by Monika Revilla, with gorgeous cinematography by Carolina Costa and sumptuous production design by Daniela Schneider, Dance looks and plays like stylish, high-key Hollywood melodrama, with a sly sense of camp.
Nearly every sequence of lovebirds Ignacio and Evaristo cuts away to a shot of Amada suffering, though not powerless. Eventually, she stakes her claim to a place in society and in her marriage, just as Ignacio stakes his life on the authentic happiness he feels with Evaristo. But neither the twain shall meet, except in misfortune.
Dance of the 41 is currently available for streaming on Netflix. Visit www.netflix.com.
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