The Old Gringo--an historically-based novel by Mexican diplomat, intellectual and author Carlos Fuentes--is a sensitive, complex, and ultimately satisfying portrayal of the Mexican people and a core period in their history. Not only is the acting intense and heartfelt, but also the hemisphere is turned upside down and one is allowed in for a moment to a world that trips to modern resort beaches can never access--the passionate, fascinating, suffering, poverty-stricken, and tempted-to-revolution nature of life in Latin America. For Fonda, herself a young revolutionary (disagree if you like) during the Vietnam War, and those like myself who have been to war-stricken lands like Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, and, yes, today's Mexico with its Zapatista movement in Chiapas, the passion of a people actively engaged in fundamental rhythms of everyday life and survival is inspiring beyond words. Each of the three principle characters--the young revolutionary general (Jimmy Smits), the spinster American school teacher (Jane Fonda) and the self-exiled American writer Ambrose Bierce (Gregory Peck)--are presented with a common dilemma, a dilemma presented to many of us of relative wealth and privilege (i.e., any American by comparison with our third world brothers and sisters) by the choice between our life of comfort and relative ease as compared with a life of sacrifice and commitment to a greater common good. The dilemmas are real, the passions are palpable, and a world turned upside down--like the upside-down map of the hemisphere on revolutionary General Poncho Villa's wall--is a wonder to behold. From the brutal "murder" of a horse to the beautiful and sensitive portrayals of the peasant people in the midst of revolution, this movie is an all-time favorite of mine. I am glad I have found out where to get it because at one time I had been told it was unavailable. It will now hold a spot on my shelf with a number of other signicant "main stream" pictures on Latin America, including Olmos's 1992 "American Me", Nava's 1983 "El Norte" and Oliver Stone's 1986 "Salvador"--pictures that had to be made but could only have been made by the right person in the right time. Puenzo as director with Fonda, Peck, and Smits were the right people coming together in the right place for this one.