Chilean author, journalist, filmmaker Alberto Fuguet has written a host of books, some of which have been translated into English and, in the case of “Tinta Roja,” made into a film by Peru’s Francisco Lombardi.
“Locations: Looking for Rusty James,” Fuguet’s docu about the making of Francis Ford Coppola’s “Rumble Fish,” was presented at Telluride by Coppola and is included in the Criterion Collection.
Fugue’s sixth and latest film, “Cola de Mono,” made for roughly $10,000 via bank loans and personal investors, is his boldest yet and was among the buzz films at L.A.’s Outfest this year. He spoke to Variety on the eve of its Chilean debut at Sanfic on Tuesday:
You say that Cola de Mono – what’s the official title in English, if it has one?- is your first LGBT-themed film. Why has it taken you this long to make one? What themes did you explore in your earlier films?
“Cola de Mono” will be called “Cola de Mono;” “Eggnog” doesn’t quite cut it. My distributor, TLA, really likes the title. What will change is the tagline in English, which will be: “Don’t drink it after midnight.”
In a certain way, it’s my first explicit gay film. I believe, as a gay artist, all my work has been filtered through both my male and gay perspective. After all, I made a documentary on what I considered a very charged homoerotic movie that is Coppola´s “Rumble Fish.” Indeed, “Cola de Mono” is more explicit in many aspects but it is not a bromance, which most of my films are. “Invierno” is clearly a bromance and the mystery of that movie is what sort of love and bond the two main heroes had. There have always been slight references but all my movies are about guys who are different, who don’t belong. My gaze has always been on men, whatever orientation the characters have. So, “Cola de Mono,” in that sense, is quite similar to my Nashville movie: “Música Campesina.” One has more sex and nudity but both tackle desire and longing and a certain loneliness. My other films concentrated more on a male flaneur, a certain type of loner who doesn’t connect. “Cola de Mono” is very gay but it is also a genre picture. And that is new for me. We don’t do many genre pictures in Latin America or those that are made are more commercial. I wanted to do a sort of gay slasher art movie, my own type of Giallo [‘70s Italian horror genre].
Why did I take so long? I have no idea. Perhaps times have changed. I didn’t feel I knew the actors who could help me. Or maybe the time has come to tell the tale. Who knows? I don’t. Perhaps the answer is that in both my films and in my books, I’ve been tackling non-fiction, memory, autobiographical subjects and “Cola de Mono” is quite personal.
How much of this film is autobiographical, if at all?
All of it and none. I haven’t been slashed or involved in bloody scenarios. It’s a work that builds on memory and my growing up and having a pool and being a movie buff. I guess I’m in both of my lead characters, Borja and Vicente. I wrote it to recall summers before the digital era; no Instagram, no Wi-Fi. I remember those magazines and Richard Gere in jockstraps and a lot of those posters and books are mine. It’s an ode to B culture or perhaps a certain American mainstream cinema and literature that we devoured down here: from Stephen King and Robin Cook novels to all the Amblin stuff. “Cola de Mono” sprang from a book I published last year called “VHS,” which tackles those same movies and cultural landmarks I devoured, the movies that most impacted me.
There are quite a lot of risqué scenes in the movie. How did you go about casting it? Were any of the actors straight aside from the mother? Or are they all openly gay, including the two leads, who I believe are brothers in real life.
I learned in “Invierno,” where I wanted to have a lot of male nudity, that there are some things you just have to ask beforehand, not on set. So, when casting, full frontal nudity was a topic. To my surprise, the Instagram generation has no problem with it. I was perhaps the only shy one around. I asked cordially what I wanted and everybody was more than eager to perform. A lot of the extras, mostly gay acting students and models, were recruited via Instagram and all were quite excited to participate in a movie like this. To find the brothers was a challenge. I first cast Santiago Rodriguez for the part of Vicente and the adult Borja with him in mind. We worked together in “Invierno” and I knew he had drive and potential. I asked him to help me find a young actor we could work with. My idea was a first-year acting student but he told me about his brother Cristobal, a sociology graduate. I knew that when I saw them together that it was a coup to cast them. Cristobal had no acting experience but is a movie buff. He had no problem with nudity so both were cast. It was a godsend. Santiago is gay and was not scared of making a movie like this. On the other hand, Cristobal is straight but very secure and curious. Both had never used jockstraps before.
In the movie, you superimpose the recipe for the Chilean Christmas eggnog Cola de mono and definitions for a jock strap, cruising, and info on the Baños Prat spa, in what is almost a didactic (and funny!) approach to the gay theme. Why made you decide to use this device?
My Puig obsession. They are collages, foot-notes, pieces of magazines. It’s didactic because in my mind, it’s not a 2018 movie but a banned 1986 movie. It was made for me when I was around Vicente’s age. I would have loved to have seen it; I would have a crush on all the actors. I learned so much from movies back then. I feel “Cola de Mono” is a movie a gay kid would take his mother to see. This extra info is for the people who are not in the know. Also, it helps me make it more real. The Baños Prat steam baths never existed.
Who and what in the world of film has influenced you most?
Too many: Brian De Palma, “Stand by Me,” “American Gigolo,” both of the Stevens (King and Spielberg), Eastwood and Bronson, disco slasher movies like “The Eyes of Laura Mars,” William Friedkin, “The Fan” with Lauren Bacall and Michael Biehn, Joe Dante, “Rumble Fish,” some Paul Mazursky movies, the music of Pino Donaggio, “Carrie,” of course, John Carpenter. My other movies have been perhaps more European in style; this is much more American and yet it is also quite Chilean, I believe.
Is the McOndo literary movement, of which you are considered to be the founder, still alive? How has it evolved since 1996 and 2002 when you were interviewed by Newsweek (and graced its cover) to discuss the possible demise of magic realism and the rise of McOndo in Latin America. Please define it for us, too.
Perhaps but not the name. Perhaps now it’s considered just realism or contemporary, both in cinema and in literature. Magical realism, when copied and turned into a formula, is kitsch. I believe no one now is working in that style. In 1996, to state that Latin-American art could be more than rural and just centered on politics was considered reactionary. It was a joke. I said that Latin America was more than just García Marquez´s Macondo. It was more like McOndo, where reality was so in-your-face and contradictory and weird that you didn’t need magic to describe it. It was weird without any extra input. And it was a hybrid; high art combined with low art. Now things have changed: feminism and gay issues and diversity (all works of art of the Boom was male, straight, white) on one hand; nobody argues that LA is urban and is also part of the global culture. We process what comes from abroad, we don’t just swallow it. So yes, it’s alive. “Cola de Mono” can be tagged many things but it can also be tagged McOndo. I think it´s more, of course. I never want to be typecast or pigeon-holed. I’m more than a McOndo guy or a Chilean author or a gay dude or whatever. My mistake was to be funny in a culture (the arts) where there is no humor. That is the past, now is the future.