This year’s “LatinBeat” festival honors recent Latin American films, Brazilian Tropicália, and Alfonso Cuarón—the director of Y Tu Mamá También, the third Harry Potter movie, and the upcoming futuristic feature Children of Men. Cuarón spoke with Logan Hill.
At “LatinBeat,” you’ll be introducing Felipe Cazals’s rarely seen 1976 film Canoa. Why?
As a teenager, I saw this film when the echoes of the ’68 massacre of students in Mexico City were still bouncing around. There was censorship of those events, so Cazals focused on a different event that same year [the lynching of several suspected activists]. Cazals has the drive of an action-film director, but his concerns are social.
You seem to relish that kind of combination.
That generation of Mexican filmmakers was concerned about social issues, mostly at the expense of cinematic issues. I was not aware of how much I loved Canoa until I saw it after doing Y Tu Mamá También and realized that my voice-over about the story’s historical context—that narrator—came from Canoa.
When you got kicked out of film school, you found work in an art museum. What paintings did you love?
I would walk past Velázquez and all the Romantics of the nineteenth century every day, but most of all I discovered [José Clemente] Orozco. He was interested in social events, but he transcended the propaganda that Diego Rivera and others fell into by taking a more humanistic approach.
Do you have a favorite contemporary Mexican artist?
Gabriel Orozco. Such clarity of vision, which he combines with humor. “
LatinBeat” is hosting the belated American premiere of your first film, 1991’s Love in the Time of Hysteria—a sex comedy about a guy who thinks he has AIDS. Where did that idea come from?
The early campaigns about AIDS in Mexico, calling it this gay disease! My movie is a comedy, but the whole thing of [casting a straight man] was trying to bring AIDS into the heterosexual sensibility of the Mexican. At the same time, I just wanted to make a comedy like Lubitsch. I was trying to rip off Woody Allen in many ways, too. I remember wanting to make something like Hannah and Her Sisters, but more kinetic and cinematic, like Scorsese’s After Hours or New York Stories.
Well, like Scorsese, you often use music as a source. Was that true with Love?
Everything started with the music, actually. I remember listening to a partita by Mozart and doing drawings of condoms! That was pretty much the genesis of the film. There’s something erotic about Mozart’s woodwind pieces: a celebration of life and a subtle longing for love.