The wisdom of a severed head: ‘Conozca la cabeza de Juan Pérez’

In this 2008 Mexican film, “Conozca la cabeza de Juan Perez,” that played briefly in Los Angeles as part of Laemmle’s Latin American Showcase, we know what happens in the end, but the fun is all in how we get there.  In Spanish with English subtitles, the movie is told from the point of view of the severed head of Juan Perez and that’s why the English title is “Meet the Head of Juan Perez.”

Just who was Juan Perez? In life, he was Juan Perez the Great and there wasn’t much he was great at except card tricks, cheating at card games and loving his white rabbits. Perez (Silverio Palacios) is a magician and his wife and assistant Lucia (Dolores Heredia) are a members of the small urban Aztlan Circus that travels around the same city, barely ahead of the authorities.  The star attraction is a small pack of white toy poodles whose trainer isn’t popular with the other acts. When the circus has to make some cut backs, Perez becomes obsessed with a 16th century guillotine believing that he can use it for a spectacular act that will bring back people to the circus. Perez succeeds but first he must steal the guillotine from a local museum, deal with some the money-grubbing clowns, win a few poker games, find a few willing test subjects and consider a little infidelity.

Beginning near the end, the Perez’s head recounts how he came to be separated from his body. There is blood, but not gore. A lot of the ick-factor is alleviated by the usage of animation. Director Emilio Portes keeps us guessing and provides a happy ending of sorts in this whimsical black comedy about the price of fame and old curses.

You might have to rent this 87-minute movie as it is no longer showing in Los Angeles.

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