This frame occurs in the car after the temper tantrum by Tenoch (Diego Luna) when Luisa (Maribel Verdu) has sex with Julio (Gael Garcia Bernal) in the car, much like she did with Tenoch at the hotel. In a moment of (however fact-based) sexual gamesmanship, Tenoch has just revealed that he too had sex with Julio’s girlfriend just as Julio did with his – leading to Julio slamming on the breaks, getting out and raging at Tenoch through the window. (1:08:37)
Three aspects of film form are used to suggest a connection between the relationship of Julio and Tenoch and the class and sexually-based tensions between them: 1. Sound (specifically the dialogue); 2. Specialization (the placement of a Mexican flag decal on the window between Tenoch and Julio); and 3. Acting (facial expressions, body language, actions, etc.).
In this particular frame, in the midst of an argument stemming from Tenoch’s revelation that he too slept with Julio’s girlfriend, Julio is positioned outside the back window of the car, yelling and raging at Tenoch, beginning first in homophobia (“fucking faggot”) and soon transitioning to issues of class and standing (“This fucking peasant is gonna rip your head off!”). What begins as a confrontation over a personal affront has given way to reveal the class struggles beneath the surface (Julio being a “peasant/commoner” and Tenoch being “shitty petty bourgeois” for example).
In this frame, Julio is on the outside looking in – not unlike the various social and economic issues bypassed during the various detours of the characters’ road trip on the way to “Heaven’s Mouth” (the mythic beach paradise they’ve promised Luisa as their final destination). It is significant that he is on the outside and that Tenoch is on the inside of the car, and in particular that on the lower left hand corner of the frame is a Mexican flag decal. This symbol of nationality and its placement on the outside of the car window behind which is the “well-to-do” character of Tenoch suggests that he “represents” the Mexico which has “left behind” Julio’s socio-economic class.
The fact that Julio, in the course of the scene, spits on the window (and thus on the flag decal, and thus on his own nationality and class standing) is representative of the feelings of inferiority and difference which boil away underneath the surface of his friendship with Tenoch.
Also worth noting on the subject of this particular frame is the fact that although Julio and Tenoch’s argument began initially over their mutual anger that one slept with Luisa before the other, Tenoch and Julio are basically “in each others’ faces” and yet Luisa is nowhere to be seen. This, coupled with the Mexican flag decal and the dialogue (slurs based on mutual homophobia and class difference), help to strengthen the suggestion that Luisa was never the real issue between them (just as sleeping with each others’ girlfriends wasn’t) but rather that their issues are personal and yet, on a larger scale, socio-economic (class struggle, etc.).
Also worth noting within this scene is Luisa’s suggestion that they just “want to fuck each other,” foreshadowing the seduction toward the end which begins as an apparent ménage-a-trois and gives way to Julio and Tenoch’s apparent homosexual dalliance. This too appears to be the real issue, also symbolized by the fact that Julio and Tenoch are in this frame and Luisa, who on some level perhaps (inadvertently) “instigated” the argument at its center, is nowhere to found.