From the mid-1930s to the late 1950s, Mexican cinema became the most successful Latin American cinema and the leading Spanish-language film industry in the world. Many Cine de Oro (Golden Age cinema) films adhered to the dominant Hollywood model, but a small yet formidable filmmaking faction rejected Hollywood's paradigm outright. Directors Fernando de Fuentes, Emilio Fernandez, Luis Bunuel, Juan Bustillo Oro, Adolfo Best Maugard, and Julio Bracho sought to create a unique national cinema that, through the stories it told and the ways it told them, was wholly Mexican. The Classical Mexican Cinema traces the emergence and evolution of this Mexican cinematic aesthetic, a distinctive film form designed to express lo mexicano.
Charles Ramirez Berg begins by locating the classical style's pre-cinematic roots in the work of popular Mexican artist Jose Guadalupe Posada at the turn of the twentieth century. He also looks at the dawning of Mexican classicism in the poetics of Enrique Rosas' El Automovil Gris, the crowning achievement of Mexico's silent filmmaking era and the film that set the stage for the Golden Age films. Berg then analyzes mature examples of classical Mexican filmmaking by the predominant Golden Age auteurs of three successive decades. Drawing on neoformalism and neoauteurism within a cultural studies framework, he brilliantly reveals how the poetics of Classical Mexican Cinema deviated from the formal norms of the Golden Age to express a uniquely Mexican sensibility thematically, stylistically, and ideologically.