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Fame Goes to Cuaron's Heart, Not Head

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By Bob Tourtellotte

Fame has not gone to Mexican film director Alfonso Cuaron's head but to his heart.

Oscar nominee Cuaron, whose movies include critical hit "Y Tu Mama Tambien" and box office smash "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban," is using his new prestige to support younger filmmakers by acting as a producer of their movies.

He says its keeps him close to cutting-edge talent making fresh and relevant movies, and for the filmmakers, putting his name and his company, Esperanto Films, above a title gives it a world-class seal of approval which lures fans to theaters.

Cuaron's latest show of support is for fellow Mexican director Fernando Eimbcke's comedy "Duck Season," which opens on Friday in U.S. theaters. The film covers one afternoon in the lives of two Mexican teen-agers spending the day at home.

"I'm reaching an age," begins the 44-year-old Cuaron, "and I've been following and trying to emulate the old masters for all my life. And there's a moment in which you need to push the energy of a new generation, and the questioning of a new generation and the times that a new generation is absorbing."

Cuaron is backing up-and-coming talents like Eimbcke, who has yet to make a name for himself on the world stage as Cuaron did. "Duck Season" is 35-year-old Eimbcke's first feature-length film. It has won numerous awards including 11 Ariels, Mexico's top movie honors given by the Academia Mexicana de Artes y Ciencias Cinematograficas. The movie is planned for release in some 30 countries eventually.

Cinematic Vision

What sets "Duck Season" apart is Eimbcke's vision. In many movies, the director's vision becomes secondary to the movie's plot, characters and dialogue, but in "Duck Season," those elements are married together in service of Eimbcke's idea of what the movie should be, Cuaron said.

"The narrative is hostage to the cinematic vision, and when that happens, poetry springs out," Cuaron said.

Like most boys at home on a day away from school, Flama and Moko, both 14, spend time playing video games, but when the electricity goes off in their apartment, they are forced to find other ways to occupy their day.

The pair time a pizza delivery, and when it comes 11 seconds beyond the promised 30 minutes, Flama demands a free meal. A neighbor Rita, 16, comes over to bake a cake, and sexual tension develops between her and Moko.

It all seems harmless, but what audiences learn is the kids are largely ignored by their parents, causing them to be resentful and angry. The pizza delivery man, who stays through the day, feels as if his life has been a failure.

Much of what is revealed comes not through plot or dialogue, but in the characters' actions as when the boys fire pellets at decorations Flama's mother has put on shelves.

Eimbcke filmed the movie in black-and-white to give it a simple and natural look that offsets the complex emotions of the characters.

'Duck Season' Around The World

Cuaron said there are lessons to be learned for all world cultures -- not just Mexico -- in the day's adventures for Flama, Moko, Rita and the pizza delivery man.

"It's proof that human behavior is the same no matter the language, no matter the culture," he said.

And he is looking even further down the road at younger filmmakers, saying that people in their late teens and early 20s possess a "fearless" attitude about filmmaking because computers and technology have evolved to a point where they can easily make short movies.

"For them, cinema is something that is already in their blood, and they don't ask for permission to do things, they just pick up a little camera and go and do stuff," he said.

While Cuaron has taken an active role in promoting other filmmakers, he continues to work on his own projects.

He has co-written and directed a film, "The Children of Men," about a former social activist who aids a pregnant woman whose child may help scientists save mankind.

It is due in theaters in September.

After that, he said, "it's time for a big siesta."


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