×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Mexico’s Alonso Ruizpalacios on ‘Museo,’ Francois Truffaut, Play  

‘Museo’ celebrates its North American premiere at Toronto

Scoring a 2018 Berlin Silver Bear for best screenplay and some rave reviews – Variety called it “gorgeous, giddy shaggy-dog movie” – Mexican Alonso Ruizpalacios’ “Museo,” starring Gael Garcia Bernal, now segues to Toronto for its North American premiere before its U.S. commercial bow in New York, via Vitagraph Films, on Sept. 14.

Ruizpalacios’ follow-up to 2014’s “Gueros,” a Berlin best first feature winner, “Museo” is inspired by one of Mexico’s most notorious heists: the Christmas Eve 1985 robbery of 140 priceless Mayan and Meso-American pieces from Mexico’s National Anthropology Museum. First thought the work of a sophisticated international crime syndicate, the robbery was in fact the work of two Mexican veterinary school drop-outs: Juan and loyal sidekick Benjamin Wilson in the film. Ruizpalacios talked to Variety about the film.

Museo” has been taken as the story of a son, Juan, (Garcia Bernal), who misguidedly tries to impress his father by pulling off a movie-style robbery. But maybe I’m wrong.

I tend to side with what Wilson says at the beginning of the film: That we can’t really know the motives of people in history. We can only guess from their actions. Digging deeper into the story, we couldn’t find a motive for the [real-life] heist. We  ended up embracing that. It became one of the film’s keys. I always kept in mind Iago in “Othello.” His most evil feat was not saying why he did what he did at the end of the play. He just says, “What you know, you know. From this time forth, I never will speak word.”

The film seems a tragedy, of an intelligent iconoclast, Juan, in a society where people learn things by rote, accept received wisdom blindly…

There’s something to that. Juan has a mind of his own, but no real purpose. He’s deeply confused, a rebel without a real cause. That’s part of his tragedy.

But if tragedy, it’s a highly playful one. Why such playfulfulness?

At Berlin, I quoted Francois Truffaut – I talk to him in my mind, love his films, everything about him – to the effect that there are two types of film – those reflecting the agony of making a film, and those reflecting its sheer joy. My two belong to the second category. I trained in theater, always loved the concept of play. Fiction for me is a game, to be taken very seriously. The cinematographer Damian Garcia is one of my best friends. I look forward to being on set with him, mucking about. Many of the actors in “Museo” and “Güeros” are from my theater company in Mexico. There is real friendship

After Mexicans have been attacked by President Donald Trump, “Museo” sounds a note of pride at least about some things in Mexico.

When shooting “Museo,” I was constantly thinking about Mexican audiences. Their seeing the Anthropology Museum, for example. For my mind, it’s right up there next to Louvre and the British Museum. I wanted to do right by it, shooting the pieces up close, and letting people see them wonder where they came from, what they meant.

“Museo” looks as if it it was shot on a significantly higher budget than “Güeros,” a road movie which never leaves Mexico City. What were the benefits of this step-up?

The budget was really just about bringing alive the story. What it did allow us was to shoot in 35mm, which I wanted to do with “Güeros,” but couldn’t. Also it was very important for me to be able to travel to the Mayan ruins of Palenque, to Acapulco. But we never had the budget to dress a whole street, use an open background, cars, people and clothes. So we had to limit depth of field, just shoot foreground.

Mexico has something of a Chile syndrome. It makes movies that are acclaimed abroad. But Mexican movies domestic market share rarely reaches 10%. Is one aim of “Museo’s” bigger scale a larger impact at the Mexican box office?

We still haven’t fully convinced Mexicans that Mexican films are worth watching. But “Museo” will premiere in Mexico at the October’s Morelia Festival. Then Cinepolis, the distributor, is going all in, opening “Museo” on 500 screens in Mexico. “Gueros” had 50 screens. So yes, it’s a big step-up.

VARIETY PORTRAIT STUDIO AT TIFF

More Film

  • France’s Bertrand Blier Reflects On Oscars,

    Bertrand Blier: Love Is The Most Boring Subject Of All

    PARIS —  In his first feature since 2010’s “The Clink of Ice,” filmmaker Bertrand Blier returns with a somber, existentialist farce reminiscent of the last century’s most celebrated absurdist theater. Vladimir and Estragon, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, meet Taupin and Foster (Gérard Depardieu and Christian Clavier). One is homeless, the other well off, though that dynamic [...]

  • Marvel Man Defied Naysayers to Build

    How Kevin Feige Defied Naysayers to Build a Lucrative Universe

    Given its impact on Hollywood moviemaking, it’s hard to believe that the first movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe debuted just over a decade ago, reviving “Iron Man” star Robert Downey Jr.’s career in the process. But Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige, who will receive the PGA’s David O. Selznick award for his industry-changing body [...]

  • Gaumont Reteams with Quad on Mohamed

    Gaumont Reteams with Quad on Mohamed Hamidi's 'Queens of The Field' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Gaumont is reteaming with “The Intouchables” and “C’est La Vie” production banner Quad on Mohamed Hamidi (“One Man and His Cow”)’s concept company “Queens of The Field.” The movie is set in a small rural town which is on the verge of losing its funding along with its field. The threat leads the town women [...]

  • Toby Emmerich

    Toby Emmerich Recalls Rachel Adams' Chemistry Read With Ryan Gosling

    In the span of one year, Toby Emmerich ascended to the chairman role at Warner Bros. Picture Group, shepherded the studio’s record-breaking slate at the worldwide box office, and was selected as the latest recipient of the PGA’s Milestone Award, a kudo that has previously gone to execs including Donna Langley and Robert Iger. Among [...]

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    The Story of 'A Star Is Born' Before Bradley Cooper's Version

    “A Star Is Born” has always been a great talent vehicle, including the new Bradley Cooper-Lady Gaga version, which Warner Bros. opened Oct. 5. Previous versions showcased big-name talent, but there’s also a stellar lineup of people who almost made the film but didn’t, including Cary Grant, Cher, Elvis Presley, Whitney Houston, Denzel Washington, Tom [...]

  • PGA Presidents Gail Berman and Lucy

    PGA Presidents Gail Berman and Lucy Fisher on the Need for More Change

    Midway through their first year as co-presidents of the Producers Guild, Gail Berman and Lucy Fisher are pleased with their guild’s progress tackling some of the industry’s thorniest issues — sexual harassment and inequality among them — but fully aware how much more work needs to be done. Luckily, as producers and former studio bosses, [...]

  • Sandy Climan

    Writing Platform Open Screenplay Launches With Backing From Sandy Climan

    With backing from longtime Hollywood player Sandy Climan, Khaled Sabawi has quietly launched Open Screenplay as a free online platform for aspiring screenwriters. Open Screenplay is aimed at helping writers create better stories through its story-writing process and tools. It has launched a contest with a $2,000 prize and has more than 100 screenplays in various [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content