Movie-About-a-Movie La Ultima Pelicula Is a Mordant Mayan Curio


La Última Película is a remake, or perhaps a reimagining, of Dennis Hopper’s The Last Movie, but its title translates more directly as The Last Film — a significant distinction.

This mordant curio, co-directed by Filipino filmmaker Raya Martin and Cinema Scope editor and publisher Mark Peranson (whose magazine — full disclosure — I have previously contributed to), is concerned chiefly with the demise of celluloid; it takes stock of the state of contemporary cinema, impoverished by film’s looming obsolescence, and draws some dire conclusions indeed.

The setting is the Yucatán toward the end of 2012: A boorish American filmmaker (Alex Ross Perry) and his guide (Gabino Rodríguez) venture to the Mayan ruins of Chichén Itzá, eager to make a movie as the Mesoamerican long-count calendar reaches its end.

Perry’s character mocks the middle-class tourists making a New Age holiday of the prospective apocalypse, but he is hardly a paragon of worldly enlightenment. The film indulges his complaints and then redirects them at him. Martin and Peranson, a savvy pair, appreciate their outsider status here, and they remain uncommonly sensitive to even the subtlest ways that ignorance and entitlement may manifest themselves — both in art and in our relationship to it. (And they are attuned, as well, to the sense in which culture itself involves performance: There are layers of artifice around Chichén Itzá that are difficult to penetrate.) This is film, needless to say, at its most studious.