Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – 2004 Cuarón
So I thought about a comparison for watching Cuaron direct this film— it’s a very good film—but it feels a bit like watching the world’s greatest opera singer do a pop song. I was going to go with watching Michael Jordan play baseball—but I think Prisoner of Azkaban is better than that—haha. But still, as good as this film is (and it’s very good)—I can’t help but just want to watch Cuaron get back to doing opera again. He’s the best at it. The film before this was a masterpiece (Y Tu Mama Tambien), and the three films after it are as well with Children of Men, Gravity and Roma.
Really strong stuff from Michael Sragow from the Baltimore Sun which works because they’re both the third film in the franchise- “The Prisoner of Azkaban is to Harry Potter what that other No. 3, “Goldfinger,” was to James Bond: the movie that takes the invention and gamesmanship of the series to a whole new giddy peak”
No Emmanuel Lubezki collaboration here with Cuaron—the only time aside from Roma
There’s a nice framing of Potter in the foreground, Richard Griffiths in the doorway as Aunt Marge is floating away – there’s nothing like this in the first two films from Chris Columbus—this is a major step up
Cuaron and the film/franchise seem to steal (smartly!) from the Mike Leigh traveling group/stable of actors: Gary Oldman (Meantime), David Thewlis (Naked), Timothy Spall (tons of work but yeah Secrets and Lies)—all in all it’s crazy the abundance of acting talent here-
Sadly Emma Thompson isn’t given much more than a cameo— Julie Christie is entirely wasted here– mostly just hinted at—this is one of our great actresses. We actually don’t get much of Gary Oldman either- he’s in a Harry Lime Welles/Third Man role where he’s the topic of conversation the entire movie building up to him showing up but he’s not on screen much
The last 30-45 minutes are strong- superb storytelling—Back to the Future meets An American Werewolf in London–
Cuaron has a nice spiral staircase shot here harkens back to the stunner in his debut Sólo con Tu Pareja
Cuaron’s trademark green color palate is there- it’s just muted, Harry is in a green shirt and many of the night scenes have a green tint instead of the usual blue day for night or traditional black
As it was for many of my generation, this was my first exposure to Cuaron. I remember thinking it was one of the greatest things I had ever seen, haha. I wouldn’t say it was the movie that got me into taking film more seriously (I think I was only maybe 8 at the time), but it was one of the first that I appreciated for more than just the story. I’ve always had a soft spot for the Harry Potter series, and this one most of all.