10 · 26 · 17

Alfonso Cuarón presented The Secret Formula, by Rubén Gámez, at the 15th FICM

By: Gabriel Andrade Espinosa

The Special Guest of the 15th Morelia International Film Festival (FICM), Alfonso Cuarón, presented the special screening of The Secret Formula (1965) by Rubén Gámez.

This film, with which the Sonoran director redefined an aesthetic in the Mexican cinematography of the sixties, is considered by Gravity’s (2013) director as one of the most important films of Mexico mid last century.

Surreal, anarchic, a delirium of images, the film examines the cultural and political effects of foreign influence in Mexico, questioning national identity, power structures and religious beliefs. It is a statement against the melodramatic Mexican cinema of the sixties.

“I saw it for the first time when I was in film school. It was a film that completely changed the paradigms I had about what Mexican cinema can be. It’s an X-ray, not of Mexico, but of what it’s like to be Mexican,” Cuarón said. “What I like most about Gámez, is the profound faith he has in cinema as a language that does not depend on other languages, that doesn’t depend on the narrative, doesn’t depend on the interpretation, but depends on the tools of cinema itself. The film narrative is not a literary narrative interpreted in film.”

In addition to the general director of the FICM, Daniela Michel, and the director of Cineteca National, Alejandro Pelayo, directors Carlos Reygadas and Amat Escalante were in the presentation. Their presence had a purpose: to demonstrate the influence that The Secret Formula had on the work of these Mexican filmmakers.

“It’s very difficult to find references to The Secret Formula in Mexican cinema, I only remember two filmmakers who have some similarity, and the two are here: one is Carlos Reygadas and the other is sitting next to him, Amat Escalante. I believe that they are the filmmakers who have learned to speak about what it is to be Mexican in this way full of symbolism.”

In this regard, Amat Escalante detailed some aspects of his work in which that influence can be recognized. “For example, when I was casting for The Bastards (2008), it was my priority: rather than seeing if I could memorize things or how well they acted, I would look at scars or burned skin.”

Carlos Reygadas gave a brief theoretical explanation about the style of the film: “I told Alfonso that the film, for me, was an Eisenstenian exercise and he told me that it seemed more vertovian to him. Now that I see it, of course, I notice the vertovian side, with the subject of the moving camera. But I insist about the Eisenstein montage and it also refers me to previous things like the Kuleshov effect, the subject of the interrelation of images and the creation of sense from them, also the elements that are crossing and generating sense. All this has always interested me since before making films. And something that does seem very vertoviano to me, which is not used in today’s cinema, is the idea that the painting itself can be significant at a given moment, not only is the place where things happen but has a life of its own. It is an element that I used in Japan (2003) with the characters that come out and enter the picture and that are separated and reunited”.