On February 24th, 2019, at the 91st Academy Awards Ceremony, Director Alfonso Cuarón won the Academy Award for Best Directing for the film Roma. This foreigner who has been in Hollywood for many years has finally created his own legend by virtue of his strength. At the 9th Beijing International Film Festival (BJIFF), Alfonso Cuarón's two heavyweight movies, Children of Men and Gravity, will be released to the audiences who like his works.
The Film Dream of A Foreigner
Alfonso Cuarón's “director dream” always follows the “space dream”. When he was eight years old, Apollo landed on the moon. This human feat was broadcast on local television in Mexico City, and Cuarón's thoughts followed the camera as the spaceship flew more than 300,000 kilometers into space. He made up his mind right away that he would either be an astronaut or make a movie when he grew up.
But becoming an astronaut was a difficult task, and Cuarón was forced to abandon this dream. However, he had an inspiration to put the space dream in movies, and he was determined to make a film about outer space in the future.
Carrying that in mind, Cuarón acted immediately: He was a frequent visitor to the cinema, and watched every movie played on TV. People like John Ford, John Huston, Vittorio De Sica and Philippe Casals were his "teachers." In addition to watching movies, Cuarón also tried to make his own works, and his brothers and sisters became the object of his shooting.
At his adulthood, Cuarón was challenged by an unsuccessful film career. Fortunately, his film dream came true thanks to the new film era in Mexico in 1990s. However, the backward film industry environment there forced Cuarón to make a painful decision to survive in Europe and America and thus became a foreigner.
Cuarón's career had its ups and downs in those years out there. A Little Princess brought him sweetness of success, while Great Expectations bitterness of failure. He has won numerous accolades for his comedy Y Tu Mamá También and ran into great controversy when filming Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
Cuarón was not lost in the face of either lavish praise or strident criticism, and he never complained about life. He said, “I am convinced that people begin their journey since they were born. I'm grateful for my journey. It's an unpredictable journey.”
It was in this way that this ever-striving foreigner from Mexico finally won his own trophy.
The “ Beijing Film Panorama” section of the 9th BJIFF has selected two of Cuarón’s most distinguished films: Children of Men and Gravity.
Children of Men under the Beauty of Long Take
In the history of world film, many directors have depicted the future world of the mankind in their films, such as Mad Max series screened in the 9th BJIFF, Roland Emmerich’s disaster movie 2012, and Waterworld in the 1990s. Children of Men, as Cuarón’s first sci-fi film, will dampen the enthusiasm of all those who expect it. Cuarón said: “those who are waiting for the usual sci-fi blockbuster may be disappointed.”
Indeed, Children of Men has no fancy special effects, no sci-fi stories, no passionate emotional outburst.
The story tells us that one day in the future, all human beings will lose their fertility and human society will soon collapse. But the sudden appearance of a pregnant girl gives a glimmer of hope to the desperate human race.
In Children of Men, Cuarón proved an undisputed wisdom. He used the real world background to create a fictional planet. Conversely, this horrible doomsday future affects the audiences' nerves all the time. The color in the film is grayish cold, which coincides perfectly with the bad weather in the UK where it was filmed, and reflects vividly the anxiety and oppression of human society.
Most of the long shots in this film are no less than 45 seconds, and the first carries a unique style of his. The lens moved along the street, with the core of its vision focusing on Clive Owen, the leading actor. The lens approached him slowly, passed him, and returned to him, like a curious passer-by. At this moment, the street exploded suddenly, and Owen squatted down instinctively, when the camera seemed to be no longer interested in him, but rushed to the scene of the accident.
Cuarón's most famous long take is also from this film, the part in which Owen protects the “child of mankind” and the mother in their escape.
Cuarón's long shots are equivalent to the important roles in the film, and the audiences can understand the world in the film through the lens. As a result, these long shots perform the powerful function of bringing audiences into the scene. Audiences blend in with the camera and become characters in the film. At the same time, these long shots can also, inadvertently, bring aesthetic enjoyment. We can not only appreciate the beauty of the power of documentary film, but also the beauty of lyrical feeling in Children of Men. This lyrical beauty collides with the cruel doomsday, inspiring a strong sense of tragedy. This is one of the important reasons why this film becomes a classic.
Gravity, A Dream of Childhood Comes True
After Children of Men, Cuarón temporarily stopped his work as a director, and became a producer and founded his own distribution company. What he did was not for rest, but to prepare for a better film, a film that carries his childhood dream.
This is Gravity.
For Cuarón, Gravity was all about fulfilling his promise at the age of eight to make a movie in outer space.
And this childhood dream did inspire his creativity. He even wrote plays with his son Jonás Cuarón.
All efforts are paid off. As of today, Gravity is still one of the best space thrillers.
99% of the time in Gravity is about the outer space, as the director wants to dedicate a symphony under the blue-and-black dome.
In order to realize his childhood space dream, Cuarón literally moved the entire universe into the movie. Cuarón says, “as we know, there is no sound in space, so in the movie I don't add an extra sound.” In order to be realistic, the spacesuits were designed on the basis of real ones; in addition, the crew also built a realistic model of the space shuttle and space station. To simulate weightlessness, the crew designed new props and created new rocker arms. In a word, Cuarón used nearly all available resources to design and represent every detail in the film. And the final result is amazing.
During the shooting, Cuarón met Danny Boyle at the airport and was asked, “Are you making Gravity?” Cuarón answered, “Yes, it's a space movie. I finally made my own space movie!” Then Cuarón went on excitedly, “Once you go into space, you won't come back. You don't want to come back.”
Now that his long-cherished wish is fulfilled, he said with satisfaction, “I will never make any space movie again.”
Gravity not only completes Cuarón’s dream, but evokes his nostalgia as a foreigner. As long as the earth exists, gravity will not disappear; as long as homeland is there, nostalgia will always lead us and guide us back to where we lived in the first place.
Looking at his new work Roma, we can see that no matter how much halo he has been given by success, this foreigner always misses his home, and his nostalgia is always hidden in his works.