Alfonso Cuaron


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Alfonso Cuaron (Mexico, 1961) debuted with Solo Con Tu Pareja/ Love in the Time of Hysteria (1991).

After A Little Princess (1995), an adaptation of Frances Hodgson-Burnett's sentimental novel "A Little Princess" (1905), and an adaptation of Charles Dickens's Great Expectations (1998), Cuaron directed the erotically charged Y Tu Mama Tambien (2001) that became a hit.

After a movie of the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004), Cuaron turned to science-fiction with Children of Men (2006), a loose adaptation of the novel "Children of Men" (1992) written by Phyllis-Dorothy James (more famous as a writer of mystery novels). As it is often the case with adaptations, something of the original power is lost in the movie. The Dickens-ian happy ending is a bit ridiculous.

In 2027 the youngest person in the world, an 18-year-old man, has been killed (he was a celebrity and that day he refused to give an autograph), and everybody is crying. The world has had no birth since his because of an epidemics of infertility, which means that humankind is slowly becoming extinct. A man witnesses an explosion, one of the many terrorist attacks that are shaking the world. On the way home his train is attacked by demonstrators throwing stones. The police are rounding up foreigners everywhere: they are illegal immigrants who are escaping from the worldwide civil war. These refugees are either deported or killed. Britain is the one country that has escaped most of the trouble. Theo visits his older friend Jasper (Michael Caine), who lives happily in an isolated cottage, taking care of his catatonic wife. Jasper has found happiness in loneliness, and growing marijuana. When he returns to town, Theo is kidnapped by masked men. They take him to a place where he is confronted by his ex-wife, who is now the leader of this terrorist group that wants to defend the immigrants. Theo and Julian lost their child to a flue pandemic. Julian needs help to smuggle in a young female African refugee named Kee and is willing to pay Theo. Theo visits his cousin Nigel, who is a minister in the government in charge of save art masterpieces from all over the world. They have lunch in a room decorated with Picasso's "Guernica". Nigel gets Theo the papers but the rules require that Theo travels with the girl. Theo asks Julian for more money to do so. They take the girl and a midwife and start driving along a country road. Theo and Julian are making jokes like in the old days when suddenly the car is attacked by a large crowd. Their driver Luke tries to back out but someone shoots and kills Julian. The driver manages to drive away but then has to kill two cops who started chasing the car. They leave the dead Julian in the woods and resume their journey. They stop at a house where fellow activists hide, and Kee undresses in front of Theo to show him her secret: she is pregnant. Julian was planning to send her to the "Human Project", a laboratory on a distant island where scientists are trying to cure infertility. Luke, instead, would like them to tell the public. He convinces her to stay and have her baby in the country. At night, however, he overhears Luke and others talking about Julian's death: they planned it and carried it out, with the goal of taking over the organization and using Kee's baby as a tool to start a revolution. Theo wakes up Kee and the midwife, and they take off at dawn in a stolen car. Theo drives them to Jasper's ranch. Jasper arranges for a boat and then, when the posse enters his property, Jasper stands behind to send the posse in the wrong direction. Theo watches from afar and sees Jasper being brutally killed by Luke. Jasper's friend Syd, a military guard whom Jasper called "a fascist pig", gave them a ride to a refugee camp where they hope to find a "Human Project" ship. Sid tells them to look for a Romanian woman, Marichka. When they arrive at the refugee camp amid scenes of torture, abuses and executions, Kee's birthpangs are beginning. Miriam pretends to be mad in order to distract a suspicious guard and is arrested. Theo walks Kee through the apocalyptic crowd until he finds Marichka, who takes them to a place where Kee can give birth. Theo has to play the midwife when the baby comes out of Kee's womb. In the morning they are woken up by Syd, who brings news of more trouble between Luke's rebels and the authorities. The Romanian woman screms warnings but Theo cannot understand. Sid pulls out a gun: he is after the money of the bounty that the authorities offer for their capture. Marichka attacks Sid and helps them reach the port despite a large Islamic demonstration is flooding the streets, that soon erupts in an armed uprising. Luke's gang captures Kee and the baby. Now there's absolute hell in the streets. Theo looks for Kee and finally finds her, following he cry of the baby, in a building that is mostly destroyed, completely surrounded by heavily armed government troops. Luke is still heroically fighting the tanks and machine guns of the authorities, but a bomb blows him up just when Theo and Kee leave the place. As Theo escorts Kee down the stairs, everybody stops to look at the baby. Both the troops and the rebels are transfixed and cease fire. As soon as they are out of the building, hell resumes. Marichka leads a wounded Theo and Kee to a boat, and Theo rows it to the sea. Theo dies while the air force is bombing the city and the "Human Project" ship approaches.

Gravity (2013) is a sci-fi thriller that sits somewhere between Stanely Kubrick's 2001 and Brian De Palma's Mission to Mars. Its main qualities are the elegant cinematography of Emmanuel Lubezki (when it doesn't plunge into pointless 3-D exhibitionism) and the romantic soundtrack by British composer Steven Price (when he doesn't indulge in Kitaro-style new-age apotheosis). It features two stereotypical Hollywood actors impersonating two stereotypical Hollywood characters: the buoyantly obnoxious John Wayne-kind of hero and the vulnerable attractive female rookie. It distances itself from the abused tradition that pits this pair together for an interminable duration by killing the former, so that the second half becomes a one-woman show. It is hard not to see this entire film as a variation on Kubrick's scene in which Hal sends the astronaut spinning silently through the empty space. One of the subthemes, the astronaut's parental trauma, is reminiscent of both Alien (Ripley dreams of reuniting herself with her lost daughter) and Contact (the scientist eventually reunites with her dead father in space). The dialogue occasionally evokes the lyrics of David Bowie's Space Oddity. And, of course, there is a long history of castaway movies, for example Robert Zemeckis' Cast Away (2000). The film doesn't have one tenth of the metaphysical depth of Tarkovsky's Solaris, but then it probably never wanted to. It is just lightweight entertainment for the high-tech generation. Scientific inaccuracies abound, but then, again, a film is not meant as a lecture on space travel. Implausible plots have driven masterpieces of cinema and literature, so why not a half-baked mass-market adventure thriller.

Three astronauts get out their space shuttle while orbiting around the Earth to do some work. The captain is Matt (George Clooney), a veteran of space missions. Medical engineer Ryan (Sandra Bullock), instead, is on her first space mission. Suddenly they are warned by the Earth base that the Russians have destroyed an old satellite and unwanted debris is flying towards them. Sure enough the debris hits the spacecraft and sends the girl spinning in the vacuum above the Earth. She panicks, unable to stop herself and to see anything other than the spinning Earth. Matt manages to find her and attach her to a cable. They return to the spacecraft to find the third member of the expedition dead. They gently swim in space towards an old abandoned space station. When they hit it, the collision is devastating. They try to stop themselves but only luck helps Ryan get entangle in a bunch of cables. Matt can't help flying away. She grabs his hand and saves his life. But he quickly realizes that this is not going to work: the tension is too strong, the cables will break, they will both die. There is only one solution: Matt disengages himself and she sees him floating away towards a terrible slow death. Nonetheless, he radios her instructions on how to enter the space station where she can finally breath normally and remove her astronaut overalls and reveal a slender attractive body. Now she's slowly rotating and swimming in zero gravity inside a strangely deserted high-tech world. She locates the radio and tries to contact Matt, but Matt does not respond, whether because he is dead or because he does not want to continue a pointless conversation, content that she made it. She broadcasts a message to Earth, hoping that they can hear it. A fire alarm goes off almost immediately. She puts the fire off and then conveniently finds an instruction manual on how to operate the space vehicle. The machine, however, is not going to cooperate. She is alive, but lost in space and cut off from all communications. Then out of the blue Matt reappears, alive and well. Alas, it is only a dream. She is woken up by yet another alarm buzz. But the ghost of Matt gives her the strength to try something desperate, using abovesaid manual. While she blabbers her thanks to Matt we also learn that she lost a daughter. She expels herself from the dead station with a goofy manouvre and then grabs it from the outside as if she were a cowboy at a rodeo. The plan fails and, once inside again, she has to deal with yet another alarm. The spacecraft picks up speed and flashes towards Earth. She is both delirious and ecstatic. She parachutes herself at the right moment and lands in a lake. The radio now picks up all sorts of Earthly signals. She risks drowning as the capsule sinks in the lake but, of course, manages to escape and swim to the surface, with hardly a scratch or a bruise. Her shorts and her shirt are not even torn.
Being a Hollywood movie, we never doubted the happy ending and never really felt too sorry for her: we knew she would make it alive. Yawn.
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(Copyright © 2012 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )