He’s the one on the left. He’s also my favorite Director… right now at least.
Scorecard: 3 Masterpieces (A Little Princess, Y Tu Mama Tambien, Children of Men) . 1 fantastic entry in the fantasty blockbuster arena (Harry Potter and Prisoner of Azkaban). 1 underrated Dickens adaptation (Great Expectations). 1 debut Mexican film I haven’t seen, but is in my Netflix queue (Solo con tu Pareja).
Alfonso Cuaron is blisteringly intelligent. He’s worldly (duh). He’s extremely likable. He’s also part of the only genuine film movement (The Neuvo Wave) in the last 15+ years. What’s the key to his success? Regard for subject, regard for subject, regard for subject. He takes the philosophy “there should be a meaning for everything” and drives it home. Every line, every shot, every fixture, has purpose. The complete thought: it’s the most noble form or art in my opinion. Cuaron puts it all on screen, and yet nothing is more fascinating than listening to him talk about his work or the work of others.
Which makes the fact that his films are highly regarded for their style all the more perplexing. There’s no doubt he’s a master of his stylistic choices, but there’s always a substantial reason for every one of those choices. Children of Men is renowned for it’s long tracking shots, but more amazing is the complete and total effectiveness of those shots. It’s a harrowing experience and completely immerses you in the world of those scenes. By refusing to cut, there’s no separating yourself from the experience. It makes it all oddly realistic and seems to go back to the old Godard idiom on editing: “when you cut you lie”. These shots were not just pretty stylistic choices. Look at the achingly long track shot in Joe Wright’s Atonement. Sure it was pretty and a mark of great aesthetic production design, but it was completely pointless. Worse, it was boring.
Pointless and boring. I can’t think of two better words to be the opposite of Alfonso Cuaron.