Volume 76, Number 18 | September 20 - 26, 2006

Romancing the screen

A decade before ‘Y Tu Mamá También’, Cuarón made a sexy debut

By Rania Richardson

“I’m so, so, so happy that ‘Sólo Con Tu Pareja’ is going to be out. I may even watch it again,” said Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón, of his 1991 feature, never before released in this country. Best known for the raucous sex comedy, “Y Tu Mamá También, Cuarón debuted with a sophisticated film in the same genre.

The film follows Tomás, a womanizing advertising professional who becomes the victim of a vengeful prank. One of his frustrated lovers, a nurse, falsifies his medical results to read HIV-positive. Slapstick scenes that cement Cuarón as a natural master of the medium propel the quick-paced action that follows. In one hilarious episode, Tomás romances his boss and another woman in adjacent apartments, scurrying between them via a window ledge, wearing only a towel.

Translating into English as “Only With Your Partner,” “Sólo Con Tu Pareja” inadvertently became an AIDS awareness campaign when it was released in Mexico. “It was a long commercial for condom use,” joked Cuarón. But the light, amusing comedy avoids the realities of the disease. Instead, AIDS represents a penalty for promiscuity and a symbol of the sexual paranoia that followed an era of loosened mores. The film’s original marketers gave the film an English language title — “Love in the Time of Hysteria” — alluding to the novel “Love in the Time of Cholera” by Gabriel García Marquez. At the time, conventional wisdom had it that a Spanish language title would be an obstacle to international distribution. (Ten years later, Cuarón was thrilled when “Y Tu Mamá También became a hit with its original title.)

Sydney Pollack saw “Sólo, and was so impressed he called the young director to Hollywood. Thus began Cuarón’s English language film career, which includes titles such as “Great Expectations,” “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” as well as his new film, “Children of Men.” An open-minded outlook ties them all together. “The only thing you need when doing a film is to be truthful. Your own vision of life and your own politics will leak in,” Cuarón said.

The filmmaker learned his craft while working as an assistant director, after attending film school in Mexico City in the early 1980s. During that time he met and befriended Emmanuel Lubezki, his regular collaborator, whose cinematography adds a painterly quality to the films. “He’s an alchemist of the medium,” said Cuarón, referring to Lubezki’s unique combination of technical and visual prowess. “What he does is actually more and more a mystery to me as time goes on.” From the beginning, friends and family have also been at the core of the Cuarón’s work, both thematically and in the filmmaking process. His brother Carlos, for instance, co-scripted “Sólo and his son Jonás has a cameo as a squirt-gun toting prankster. “It’s a survival thing,” said Cuarón, who is currently working on a film about the 1968 massacre of student protesters in Mexico. “You find people who ‘potentialize’ you, and you don’t want to let them go.”

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