• It’s almost daunting to know where to begin with Cuaron’s latest- a masterpiece. Here he serves as his own DP (debunking any possible theory that it’s Emmanuel Lubezki (Chivo) who is the actual genius at work), shooting is gorgeously crisp digital 65mm  black and white with large (often filled with incredible set-pieces) tableaus mise-en-scene
  • Cuaron takes advantage of the frame like few have in the art form’s history—there’s the Christmas party tableau, the shooting range sequence, the wildfire, the Corpus Christi demonstration/riot/massacre, the military training sequence, the cannonball, the beach climax—the beach climax is the greatest shot of the year, if not the decade, and there are a dozen right behind it
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  • He largely utilizes a long distance from his subjects (choice close-ups include Cleo’s smile, the scene where she is shy/ashamed/private talking to her doctor), long takes to let us soak in these characters, this life, this city, this country, this family, and pans to take in the entire canvas—he pivots and moves slowly utilizing that deep focus with busy backgrounds
  • There are elements that are neo-realism showing the everyday (the routine of laundry here) in deep focus, not making a statement—cleaning or cooking in De Sica’s Umberto D
  • There are also elements that are clearly epic filmmaking inspired by Lean or even Gone with the Wind– the large canvas, many extras like the injured soldiers Battle of Atlanta famous crane shot-
  •  this is the intimate and the epic- the personal and the political or contextual at work here that is brilliantly set up here by Cuaron in the opening credits with Cleo cleaning the garage and the reflection of the world, eventually, gorgeously, a plane— in this way it is married to Y Tu Mama Tambien– we have the story of Cleo and the family, but the world goes on around them (much like the formally brilliant voice-over in Y Tu Mama Tambien after they mute the action of Diego Luna and Bernal’s small life)
  • No music score- lets you soak in the sound design- it’s the right choice
  • Airplanes galore in the mise-en-scene
  • The pure photography- this is detail in the mise-en-scene—the coke bottles, the gate at their home (which is stunningly beautiful to photograph in b/w), this is a lived in and detailed world – this is worth of Ozu and the Tati comparisons—two of the all-timers in mise-en-scene
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  • The water/cleansing metaphor is very real—opens with Cleo washing the ground, we have the water saving them from the fire, her actual water breaking with her pregnancy- the father who abandons them hates the messiness of life (aka the dog shit) and Cleo is there to clean it up which is no accident. The beach/water scene of course to end—and almost all of Cuaron’s films (at least in the 21st century) end/climax at the beach/water. The entire road trip in Y Tu Mama Tambien is to the fictional (there’s a lot there) “heaven’s mouth” beach, children of men ends on the water/boat/ship (and another pregnant saint as redeemer), Gravity Bullock ends up in the water on earth and learns to walk
  • Multiple references to “miracles”
  • Adore the sequence of Cleo turning out the lights and the camerawork pivoting- reminded me of Wes Anderson’s work at the opening in Moonrise Kingdom
  • The wildfires, earthquakes and massacres also serve as larger canvas representations for the more intimate tremors and psychology affecting this film, especially these two women—father/husband abandonment
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  • The film has lots to say about class, gender- endless readings of the film that will reward multiple revisits and study

viewing 2.0 Dec 2018

  • we have airplanes overhead, including the opening credits a number of times- I’ll count next time at home but it feels like 7-8. The brilliant motif (true to Cuaron as an auteur and formally consistent in this work) of the macro vs micro
  • I caught most of the beauty of the film the first time around but the shot of Profesor Zovek with his blindfold on and airplane going over head I missed the first time. It’s a stunning shot
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  • there are religious motifs a plenty- the film ends with Cleo ascending the stairs— that act also ground the film in neo-realism (which may seem like a contradiction but it isn’t)– she’s going about her work- and it bookends how the film starts
  • the youngest kid Pepe talks about reincarnation all the time- it’s played off as if he’s a young child learning grammar- they talk about to “resurrect” and she lays down next to him– this is also another magic hour shot
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  • more gorgeous shots through windows than I first remembered as we survey the house and daily life
  • the plains shot, the restaurant with the busy mise-en-scene- the fact that there is no room for Cleo on the bench as the kids sadly eat ice cream (another gorgeous still frame composition)
  • the establishing shot outside of the hospital is a stunner
  • the magic hour used a few times- especially at the pinnacle shot at the beach– the sound of the waves are set up in the credits with the sound of the water
  • there’s the Children of Men moment/shot of them escaping bullets during the corpus christi massacre- pregnancy
  • during the first shot on the roof of Cleo– after the scene Cuaron moves the camera up to show 3-4 other maids doing the same thing- a powerful moment
  • a giant masterpiece