Alfonso Cuarón Dares to Hope

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By Sean Axmaker

"The end result doesn't matter; what matters is what we learn for the next one."

Alfonso Cuarón is one the freshest filmmaking voices to come out of Mexico in decade, along with Guillermo Del Toro and Alejandro González Iñárritu. It's no coincidence that the three are also friends and even collaborators, with Cuarón producing Del Toro's recent Pan's Labyrinth and teaming up with Del Toro to produce Sebastián Cordero's bitter thriller Cronicas.

The three caballeros have made their respective marks not simply in Hollywood but on the international filmmaking stage, with Cuarón as the elder statesman of the trio. He was the first to make his feature debut, a black comedy about machismo, AIDS, and middle class mores called Sólo con tu pareja, which struck a chord with young Mexican audiences and became the number one film in the country in 1992; and he was the first to cross over into Hollywood with his magical screen version of A Little Princess, a tender ode to childhood imagination and innocent optimism.

His career since has shown a refreshing diversity, from the sexy and unapologetically raw Y tu mamá también, a coming of age drama of sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll with an eye-opening undercurrent of socio-political discovery, to the family friendly Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, the third film in the hit fantasy series about the famous boy wizard. What remains consistent is a vivid visual approach, different for each film but always vibrant and alive, a compassion for his characters and an empathy with youth, especially children and teenagers. "If I care to connect with anybody, it's young people," he confesses. "It's a selfish thing, because they keep you relevant."

His latest film, Children of Men, takes his career into unexpected - but decidedly relevant - territory. Based on a novel by P.D. James, it's set in a world where two decades of infertility have created a mood of hopelessness as devastating and destructive as a nuclear holocaust. The bleak, impoverished near future could be today reflected through a grimy, distorted mirror, but true to Cuarón's sensibility, the film becomes a road movie powered by the spark of hope.

The interview was conducted in early December in the midst of Cuarón's press tour in support of Children of Men. Though the gray flecks running through his unruly hair and scruffy beard gave away his age, his energy and attitude made him seem younger than his 45 years. Easy to laugh, eager to talk and passionate when discussing his work, he was a blast to interview, but he must have been hell on publicists. My interview started late; by the time it was over, he was an hour behind schedule. "Don't worry, we can go a little longer," he assured me after I got the five-minute warning. It wasn't even noon. His cell phone beeping with calls from Del Toro and Iñárritu didn't help his schedule, but it honestly felt more like a benediction than an intrusion when the director of Babel interrupted the conversation for a brief chat.

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