Interview with Arturo Ripstein
Concorso internazionale Jury
Here in Locarno we’ll see your new La calle de la amargura, a surprising movie, a mix of melodrama and social tragedy. How was this idea born?
I didn’t think about it, it’s up to her (he points his wife and screenwriter Paz Alicia Garciadiego), I thought it was impossible to put this story in images and being believable. Everything started with an article talking about the death of two midget wrestlers. It was a good example of that kind of sensationalistic pieces you can overtake only with another more disgusting or disturbing story. For so many journalists sky is the limit. I felt it was impossible to realize cinema from it, but she insisted, we argued a lot about it. A week later I understood we could make a movie from it, starting with black and white.
In your previous movie ethic and aesthetic are always connected. Is it the same in this one?
To me black and white in this case was essential to investigate reality, I needed something else than the flat realism of color. Aesthetic choices are always ethic as well, and the other way around. Look at the technology discovers in movies all over the years: sound, color, brought changes not only in the look but also in storytelling and contents. Think about contemporary cinema, more democratic because of cheaper production costs. The end of the exclusive idea of director changed ethic and aesthetic in movies, didn’t it?
An astonishing career is also made of astonishing encounters. What can you tell to us about Luis Buñuel and Gabriel García Márquez?
I want to clarify: I’ve never been Buñuel assistant, I was way too young. But I watched him and we talked a lot. He was almost completely deaf but he could hear my words, if pronounced with a lower tone. He could understand me and this encouraged our conversations. He talked with his mind but also with his gut. Still today he’s a human role model to me, even if my cinema is totally different. I think we found in each other someone to talk with, something we couldn’t find in our families or somewhere else. What he said to me has been fundamental in my life. About Márquez I don’t have the same kind of memories. A common friend introduced us, I worked on a couples of his books. But power, money and fame changed him completely. He was a great man before becoming a star. I need to be honest, even today I can’t understand the cultural phenomenon he became. Gabo, Vargas Llosa and Almodóvar are the only pop stars in Spanish culture. And this has consequences. About Márquez not the best ones I would say. I have not good memories about him…
Is it more difficult for a director fight the industry windmills and common sense today or in the past?
It’s difficult to understand how the things are today. I like nowadays democracy in cinema, but perhaps it’s more difficult make movies outside industry system and with the ambition to reach the audience, willing to compete other than simply exist. Today they invest less in real art, real independent directors fight knowing they’re going to loose, but it’s a war still worth fighting.
But Cuarón, Iñárritu e del Toro succeeded in Hollywood, bringing in American heart and vision a small piece of Mexico…
I don’t think so, Mexican cinema doesn’t really exists, go figure if it can go to Hollywood. Murnau, Lubitsch, Lang: Hollywood has always embraced foreign directors, hungry for talents. But as long as they didn’t come to realize german movies, but better American ones, it’s not happening that Brad Pitt is going to shoot a Mexican movie. They are simply Mexican guys crossing the border, helping the industry and American vision with their astonishing talent. Maybe this isn’t the case of Iñárritu, he has more creative autonomy being called from Hollywood, he didn’t ask to come. I’m happy for them, but a real point of view about our Country is still missing, and our cultural heritage is someway artistically sacked: everyone tries to leave to look for success, no one stays to recreate a vision. Once it was called cultural colonialism, today it’s called open market…
Are film festival important to defend cinema from all these issues?
Festivals are truly important if, just like Locarno, they focus on alternative cinema, on different kind of authors. Director who are not the result of homogenization of taste, usually directed by the Americanization of the aesthetic. In this way they just become bulimic happenings. Locarno is different, here we have research and intellectual curiosity, trying to help real art to grow up. This is why I’m so happy to be jury president here, even if is a difficult and ungrateful job, in the end I’ll have anew friend and tons of new enemies. Evaluate a movie in a festival, expressly for his many-sided nature, is just like decide who’s going to get a gold medal between all the Olympic participants in every sport: soccer, volleyball, swimming etc. I really hope to find someone capable of thrilling me, not only with emotion but most important with originality, with courage.
You are a master to many. Who have been your masters?
Fellini, Visconti, Kurosawa, Ford, Lang. Not Buñuel, he’s been light to me. I’m not a master, the thing that makes me happy today is I’m still learning…