Alfonso Cuaron: I'm not a very technical person

By KAREN BUTLER, United Press International
Image courtesy of Warner Bros.
Image courtesy of Warner Bros.

NEW YORK, Feb. 25 (UPI) -- Mexican filmmaker Alfonso Cuaron says he initially saw "Gravity," the groundbreaking and universally acclaimed astronaut epic he directed and co-wrote with his son Jonas, as "a little, intimate story."

At least, that's what he thought until he started preparing to shoot it. Then he realized he and his team of collaborators would have to create a lot of the technology to convince audiences Sandra Bullock was a NASA engineer quite literally lost in space. The gripping, masterfully told story is up for 10 Oscars, including Best Picture, Director, Cinematography and Actress.


So, was the idea of venturing technically where no other filmmaker had gone before part of the allure for Cuaron?

"Not at all," the writer-director told United Press International in a recent phone interview.

"Because I'm not a very technical person," he confessed. "I understand the tools of cinema and I understand the tools of cinema to use them for the sake of cinematic language, but, I mean, I got my first computer five years ago. I knew the basic functions of how to send an email and use Word and maybe check the movies on the Internet, but I think that's as far as I could go. But when I was writing the script with Jonas I thought it was going to be a small, simple film to make. I sent the script to Emmanuel Lubezki, the cinematographer, and I told him that it was a little intimate story of a woman and we could do it very quickly. It's only one or two characters and some visual effects and that would be it. It was not until later that we realized, in order to achieve what was on the page, it was going to be a bit more challenging. But that was never the intention. That was never the allure. I'm not daunted by that. As long as it is to achieve a cinematic vision, if I have to go through that process, I have to go through that process and figure things out. ... It was a journey of trial and error."


Cuaron said he is pleased "Gravity" has been embraced by critics, moviegoers and prize presenters because it means the extraordinary efforts of his son, Bullock and the artists working behind the scenes are being appreciated.

"This thing took 4 1/2 years to make and a lot of people worked really hard on it, so it's good to feel that has been recognized," the auteur noted. "When you do a film like this, you do hope you will be communicating with people. This took 4 1/2 years because of all the technology that we have to do, but all of that technology was at the service of a story of human circumstance and you are just hoping that audiences connect with that circumstance."

At the heart of the visually stunning film is Bullock, who gives a heart-wrenching performance as a terrified woman left alone on her first space mission. After an accident leaves her ship disabled and most of her crew dead, she is forced to decide whether she will fight to survive or simply give up.

Asked if it ever became difficult to maintain the balance between eye-popping spectacle and intense drama, Cuaron said: "We were all working because of the thematic element of the film and the emotional journey, so you never lose sight of that. ...


"Also, I worked with amazing collaborators that if I would feel at some point overwhelmed and trying to find a way of simplifying or compromising they'd say, 'No, we're not going to convey the emotional journey the way that we want to convey [if we do that],'" he recalled.

The maker of the films "Y Tu Mama Tambien," "Great Expectations" and "Harry Potter and Prisoner of Azkaban" admitted the process of making "Gravity" and its subsequent success were all the sweeter because he shared the experiences with his son.

"That is the best part of all this," Cuaron said. "I learned so much. He infused a new energy into my understanding of cinema."

Co-starring George Clooney and featuring the voice of Ed Harris, "Gravity" is now on DVD and Blu-ray.

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