Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Alfonso Cuarón (Ongoing Filmmaker Archive)

Introduction to Alfonso Cuarón:

Shkurny, Alex. "Defining truthfulness: Alfonso Cuaron." Filmustage (Ausgust 9, 2022)

Zarandona, José. "Great Directors: Cuarón, Alfonso." Senses of Cinema #49 (February 2009)

Vasiliauskas, Matt. "How Alfonso Cuarón Makes Every Shot Count." Studio Binder (August 12, 2019)


Film Options:

Y tu mamá también (Mexico: Alfonso Cuarón, 2001) 
MB: a sexy road movie in which two teen males hook up with a beautiful older woman. If this was made in Hollywood chances are it would be silly and immature. Instead, Cuarón provides us with a brash, honest look at human sexuality, complex emotions, and coming-of-age reckonings. No wonder the American censors were scared of this film ;)  This film catapulted Cuarón onto the global stage and added to the young actor Gael Garcia Bernal's growing reputation (coming on the heels of his role in Alejandro G. Iñárritu's 2000 film Amore Perros).
Film Description: "This smash road comedy from Oscar-winning director Alfonso Cuarón is that rare movie to combine raunchy subject matter and emotional warmth. Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna shot to international stardom as a pair of horny Mexico City teenagers from different classes who, after their girlfriends jet off to Italy for the summer, are bewitched by a gorgeous older Spanish woman (Maribel Verdú) they meet at a wedding. When she agrees to accompany them on a trip to a faraway beach, the three form an increasingly intense and sensual alliance that ultimately strips them both physically and emotionally bare. Shot with elegance and dexterity by the great Emmanuel Lubezki, Y tu mamá también is a funny and moving look at human desire." - The Criterion Collection
Resources for after you watch the film:
Carlos Aguilar: "When ‘Y Tu Mamá También’ Changed Everything."
Charles Taylor: "Y tu mamá también: Dirty Happy Things."
Ernesto R. Acevedo-Muñoz: "Sex, Class, and Mexico in Alfonso Cuarón's Y tu mamá también."
Coco Trejos: "Y Tu Mamá También and the Confines of Machismo."
Benson-Allott, Caetin. "Sex versus the small screen: home video censorship and Alfonso Cuarón’s Y tu mamá también." Jump Cut #51 (Spring 2009)

Children of Men (Japan/UK/USA: Alfonso Cuarón, 2006)
MB: There are so many essays and videos on this important film that I simply had to stop before I disappeared down the cultural rabbit hole when I was updating my archive. This film is on my short list of favorite films of all time. I've seen it and have taught it at least a dozen times. I want to watch it again, right now!
Critics Consensus and Film Description (Rotten Tomatoes): "Children of Men works on every level: as a violent chase thriller, a fantastical cautionary tale, and a sophisticated human drama about societies struggling to live." "When infertility threatens mankind with extinction and the last child born has perished, a disillusioned bureaucrat (Clive Owen) becomes the unlikely champion in the fight for the survival of Earth's population; He must face down his own demons and protect the planet's last remaining hope from danger."
"When we say that Children of Men is, without a doubt, one of the best films made in this century, we put this claim forward calmly and only after a long and detailed deliberation. The main argument for the inclusion of Alfonso Cuarón’s 2006 dystopian science fiction thriller in this prestigious company actually has little to do with the astonishing and somewhat distressing fact that Cuarón’s vision of the future is so close in resemblance to our current day situation we could even call the filmmaker some kind of a prophet. Yes, the bleak, terrifying image of the world Cuarón foresaw for the year 2027 has a lot more in common with our present than any sane person would possibly hope for, but even the director himself would wave it off and refuse to accept a compliment regarding the visionary aspect of his work, simply explaining there are no prophetic qualities in Children of Men. He made the film with his eyes wide open, aware of the situation in the world and perceiving clearly the obvious signs of what direction the world was taking as early as then. Children of Men belongs to the elite gallery of top-notch films simply because it was made with extreme technical virtuosity, displaying a very high level of talent behind and in front of the camera." - Sven Mikulec (in the resource archive)
Archive of resources for after you watch the film

Gravity (UK/USA: Alfonso Cuarón, 2013)
Film Description: "Dr. Ryan Stone, a brilliant medical engineer on her first Shuttle mission, with veteran astronaut Matt Kowalsky in command of his last flight before retiring. But on a seemingly routine spacewalk, disaster strikes. The Shuttle is destroyed, leaving Stone and Kowalsky completely alone-tethered to nothing but each other and spiraling out into the blackness of space. The deafening silence tells them they have lost any link to Earth and any chance for rescue. As fear turns to panic, every gulp of air eats away at what little oxygen is left. But the only way home may be to go further out into the terrifying expanse of space."
Resources for after you watch the film

Roma (Mexico/USA: Alfonso Cuarón, 2018)
MB - I saw this movie at an art theater in San Diego with my Great Aunt Julie. She grew up as a child in the district in Mexico City that is represented in the film and afterward she told me that the film had perfectly captured the time/place of the district. She said it was like taking a trip back in time to her childhood. I headed off to the bathroom and when I came back she was animatedly talking to others that had grown up there. It was magical to see their faces lit up and excited to share these treasured memories. A great cinematic moment in my life!
"The perfectly controlled camera, either strictly still, panning or tilting, sometimes travelling with the characters, observing the spaces and their telling geometry rather than entering them. The depth of field, where the surrounding chaos often contrasts with the camera’s steadiness. Every single painstakingly precise detail in Alfonso Cuarón’s lauded film Roma, from the rigorous camerawork (under his own direction of photography) to the conspicuously meticulous mise-en-scène and production design, converges on the reconstruction of a past, recognizable in its slightest references. But that precision also reminds us that this is a past recalled, not a present lived. This distinction is relevant to a major accomplishment of the multi-award winning film about young indigenous domestic worker Cleo and the well-off family that employs her; an exploit that does not stem from Cuarón’s aesthetic mastery, but from his ethical approach – it is the honesty of the gaze. Underlying the entire project – an homage to the woman called Libo, who Cleo stands for; while the second sibling, Paco, represents the filmmaker himself – is a complex pre-existing system of power relations. The Mexican filmmaker averts a common danger when speaking from a privileged position one has not asked for: ignoring it." - Biénzobas
"With his eighth and most personal film, Alfonso Cuarón recreated the early-1970s Mexico City of his childhood, narrating a tumultuous period in the life of a middle-class family through the experiences of Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio, in a revelatory screen debut), the indigenous domestic worker who keeps the household running. Charged with the care of four small children abandoned by their father, Cleo tends to the family even as her own life is shaken by personal and political upheavals. Written, directed, shot, and coedited by Cuarón, Roma is a labor of love with few parallels in the history of cinema, deploying monumental black-and-white cinematography, an immersive soundtrack, and a mixture of professional and nonprofessional performances to shape its author’s memories into a world of enveloping texture, and to pay tribute to the woman who nurtured him." - Criterion Collection

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