In Cannes Wednesday Alfonso Cuarón gave a Masterclass spanning his life and passions: friendships and films, made in both Mexico and Hollywood.
As Cuarón gave the class, he said – proving humble throughout his interview with Michel Simon – that the “true masters” were elsewhere in the festival, hinting that he doesn’t count himself among them. He pointed out that his was “a journey filled with insecurities,” which he considers a catalyst for his friendship with fellow Mexican filmmaker Guillermo del Toro, who Cuarón called a fellow “blue collar” filmmaker.
The two met making TV when del Toro complimented the Steven King story which Cuarón had based one of his pieces on, commenting that, “The story is so good, so why did your short suck so bad?” Although the words surprised Cuarón he says del Toro was right, and since then the two have been fast friends.
Born in a neighborhood in Mexico City with a number of commercial film studios, Cuarón learned early on how to sneak in, eventually getting into the famed Churubusco Studios where he never really left. The director recalled a time when he would operate boom mics, photograph, or write, any job that would get him paid and get him experience. All the while, however, he says he was considered within the industry as someone that had potential. “My goal was always to become a director.”
Once his potential turned into filmmaking, Cuarón says he and long time friend Emmanuel Lubezki, or “Chivo” as he refers to the legendary cinematographer, wasted as many as ten years of their careers trying to right the wrongs of former “lost” generations of Mexican filmmakers.
He recounted time and again stories of films and series done as a means of survival, a paycheck. He did note, however, that “I had the wisdom and the security to say it’s going to be on my terms,” a wisdom which lead to commercial successes with films like “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” critical acclaim for films like “Y Tu Mamá También,” and “Children of Men,” and two Academy Awards for “Gravity.”
In perhaps the best received story of the night, Cuarón talked about why, unlike other directors, he never watches any of his films. “For them,” peers del Toro and Alejandro G. Iñarritu, “their films are their babies, they nurture them and they love them. For me it’s more like ex-wives. I gave them as much as I could.”