Sergei Eisenstein’s ¡Viva México! was selected for the Thursday night showing at the Yost Theater. The film was described as a “symphonic movie” in the introduction and for the opening exposition, where music does play an important role. There is very little, if any, dialogue in the opening shots taken at Tehuantepec. The accompanying music sounds like the futuristic symphonic work, Ecuatorial by French composer Edgard Varèse, which was composed from 1933 to 1934 and debuted in New York City that year. There are reminiscences of Polish composer Krystof Penderecki’s Threnody, with its screeching, pitch-bending violins, along with a mixture of Silvestre Revueltas’ La noche de los mayas. Revueltas made use of indigenous percussion instruments like what the Mayans called a tumkul, (teponaztli in the Aztec Nahua language), and the deeper sounding huehuetl, aka tlapanhuehuetl in this last work. Just as important were the use of popular or folkloric Mexican themes which were processed and adapted to a hip, popping 60s style and sound, like the tune La sandunga.
The opening shots capture the glorious past of ancient Mexico through its pyramids and tributes to its deities in the form of larger than life statues. Eisenstein also pays tribute to the Spanish root of Mexican culture through depiction of the equally grandiose baroque and Catholic architecture so common in Mexico, and the fiesta brava , the very proud tradition of bullfighting .
Eisenstein intended to tell a story of the Mexican Revolution but the film was never completed or fully edited as the he passed away and the footage sat in a Hollywood archive for over fifty years.