In his article “The Face of Garbo”, Roland Barthes expresses that “La Garbo still belongs to that moment in cinema in which the enchantment of the human face plunged the audience into a deep ecstasy”. By “that moment in the cinema,” Barthes refers, of course, to the Star System from Hollywood.
In recent times we have witnessed a kind of resurrection of the Star System. On the one hand, we have the tireless Anglo-Saxon faces of Julia Roberts, Michelle Pfeiffer and Demi Moore. On the other hand, a parallel, alternative and exotic Star System has emerged in Hispanic cinema: Penélope Cruz, Maribel Verdú and Salma Hayek.
Paraphrasing Barthes, we could say that Salma Hayek’s face immerses the viewer in a state of deep ecstasy. Hayek’s face is a perfect face, in which the lyrics of the courtly love of the bolero can be rewritten: her pearl teeth, her fine coral mouth, her eyes like two stars light my way, her hair blends with the night, etc.
Hayek’s is a face that participates in an ineffable substance: the innocent gaze and the perverse smile, the symmetrically delineated eyebrows so black that they seem painted with charcoal, the sharp little chin, the sweet daring skin.
Salma’s face is an “absolute state of the flesh”, disturbing by its hybrid lack of definition: neither white nor black, woman and girl, tyrant or innocent; it is a face that allows the reinscription of desire: the daughter we did not have, the poor but beautiful lover, the devoted and tender mother, the rebellious holster but always ready to bend to our whims.
In more than twenty films we have been able to immerse ourselves in the contemplation of Hayek’s face as Carolina, determined and fierce, in Desperado; like Rita Escobar, with her fine showgirl waist, in Wild Wild West; on The Alley of Miracles like Almita (Salmita), without that S deaf that strikes like a whip of desire; on The Colonel has no one to write to him like Julia; and very soon, filling our screens with her face, like Minerva Mirabal in In the time of the Butterflies, based on the novel by that other hybrid Julia Álvarez.
Metro Goldwin Mayer and Show Time present In the Time of the Butterflies: Starring Salmita, intern at the Inmaculada Concepción School in the old Colonia Doctores in Mexico City; Salmita, crying inconsolably with her sisters Patria and Teresa in an obvious cardboard set in Ojo de Agua, Morelos; Salmita, irate, slapping that cruel Dominican tyrant at the Casa Borinquen in Xalapa; Salmita, facing the Caribbean Sea, her head thrown back and her hair ruffled in the breeze from the Veracruz boardwalk, in a new version of the ecstasy of Santa Teresa; Salmita, making love with Manolo Tavares, in a detailed shot with her mouth open to desire; Salmita, speaking English, coordinating, organizing the Clandestine Movement June 14th; Salmita, humiliated, in the Victoria prison; Salmita tortured by Trujillo’s henchmen.
Lost forever in the ecstasy of Salmita’s face, I am afraid that viewers will not be able to recover the Mirabal body politic in the ten million dollars of that production, as it was rewritten by Julia Álvarez in her novel