Arguably, "Children of Men" is Cuaron‘s best yet (with a current 92% Tomatometer), no small feat considering his filmography includes "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" and "Y Tu Mama Tambien."
And Universal agrees: they’re giving "Children of Men" a plum Christmas Day opening, despite not exactly being feel-good holiday fare. It’s a desolate, almost overwhelmingly bleak vision of the future, one in which humanity’s survival is no longer ensured beyond the next generation.
But Cuarón is nothing if not optimistic. His quixotic energy permeates all of his movies, which range from brusquely sexual comedies ("Y Tu Mama Tambien") to family-friendly blockbusters ("Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban").
And his energy comes through in person. On a computer screen, Cuarón might read like a cynic ranting about the today’s political climate. But hearing him talk, there’s subtle cheerfulness in his voice, one which reveals he never stops anticipating the future and what it may eventually bring.
In our extensive roundtable chat, we talk dystopias, adolescents, a tropical North Pole, and a certain bespectacled teenage wizard.
On Directing a "Harry Potter" Film
Alfonso Cuaron: Actually, at the beginning, when they offered me the whole thing, I was kind of snobby about the whole thing. I never read the books or seen the movies, and I was kind of arrogant about it, I have to confess. And then Guillermo del Toro called me and completely…pretty much…how do you call it? When your parents do the thing?
Not to reprimand. But…sort of. He called and said, "Have you read the book? Okay, read the book and then call me." So then at page 100, I called and said, "Man, this is brilliant." He says, "Yeah, you have to do it." That’s what happened. But then, of course, I read one and it’s one of those things where you keep on reading.
On Challenging His Audiences
AC: I despise movies that explain. I cannot stand exposition in movies. I start getting, like, a rash. It’s like getting suffocated in the theater. Because I love cinema. And cinema is becoming something that is not cinema. Cinema is becoming a medium of illustrating stories. Cinema is becoming a medium in which you can close your eyes and you can watch the movie.
I really love films in which audiences partake with the whole thing. They have to fill up all the gaps in-between the moments that you create. And I’m not saying that as a filmmaker, but as an audience. I enjoy watching a movie where I have to make my own conclusions.
On Developing "Children of Men"
Q: You were given a script of this, and you were initially reluctant.
AC: Oh, because the script sucked.
Q: Did you retain anything from that original script?
AC: Zero. I didn’t even finish the script. I read 15, 20 pages and I said, "Okay, bye-bye." What happened was the premise kept on haunting me. And I had to stop at some point to reconsider why it kept haunting me. And that’s when the whole process began.
"Children of Men" is in theaters today.