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The transnational filmmaking of Guillermo Del Toro, Alejandro González Iñárritu, and Alfonso Cuarón
Author: Deborah Shaw

Guillermo del Toro, Alejandro González Iñárritu, and Alfonso Cuarón are the best-known Mexican directors internationally, yet none of them has directed a film in Mexico since 2001. This book examines the career trajectories of the directors and presents a detailed analysis of their most significant films. The three directors were lobbying for tax initiatives to stimulate filmmaking, more opportunities for the distribution and exhibition of Mexican films, and more involvement in film production from television companies. Guillermo del Toro is famous as a director of genre films. The book explores the similarities between the films generated by the authorial force of del Toro, also pointing to divergence occasioned by the very different production contexts. It also explores the auteurist strategies that he has cultivated and explains what is meant by a 'del Toro film'. Alejandro González Iñárritu has also cultivated auteurist strategies, but to a very different effect. The book examines the way in which Iñárritu adopts the language of US independent cinema, with a focus on the narrative structure and the application of a range of colour palettes. Alfonso Cuarón has also followed a transnational trajectory, making films in Mexico, the USA, and the UK, and he has had a varied career, taking on auteurist and studio projects. Despite the very different industrial context, Cuarón brought a number of artistic ideas he and his cinematographer had developed, notably the use of a green colour palette and opulent, highly decorated interiors and lush exteriors.

Deborah Shaw

Frida Kahlo is probably the best known Latin American artist and a great deal has been written about her cult status, which began to emerge in the United States in the 1980s and has continued to the present day. There have also been a number of studies of the film Frida, directed by Julie Taymor and starring Salma Hayek. This chapter aims to demonstrate that the film attempts to refashion both an 'authentic' and an accessible Frida Kahlo for international consumption. It analyses the role of original compositions and pre-existing songs in this endeavour. The chapter considers the way that forms of representation in Frida have important implications for the ongoing reconfiguration of US identity, with a particular focus on the sizeable Latino population of the United States. It explores the film's use of well-known 'Mexican' singers Chavela Vargas and Lila Downs, and analyses their specific function within the narrative.

in Screening songs in Hispanic and Lusophone cinema
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Deborah Shaw

This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book is organised around three directors, namely, Guillermo del Toro, Alejandro González Iñárritu, and Alfonso Cuarón. It discusses the readings of the key films they have directed. Del Toro made the mainstream film Mimic, Cuarón directed the children's film A Little Princess, while Iñárritu succeeded in immediately establishing his auteurist credentials with the 'independent' film 21 Grams, starring Benicio del Toro, Naomi Watts, and Sean Penn. These facts tell us a great deal about the nature of the film industry today: the lack of substantial funding for Mexican productions, the sites of economic power, and the global ambitions of the directors themselves. All three have global auteurist ambitions which Mexico, with its limited funding possibilities, has not been able to accommodate.

in The three amigos
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Introducing Guillermo del Toro
Deborah Shaw

Cronos is a film that has been given an afterlife with the subsequent global success of Guillermo del Toro. Cronos is an interesting film to explore, as it shows del Toro without big budgets. At the time, it was the most expensive Mexican film ever made, with a budget of $2 million, according to the Internet Movie Database (IMDB); however, that is clearly miniscule in comparison with Hollywood and European art cinema productions. Most of the literature on Cronos has focused on the film's relationships to national cinema and to the vampire genre. This chapter explores the ways in which the writer-director applies his thesis on the importance of death to the horror genre and examines how this subverts an understanding of death as the dark element to be feared. It explores the film's application of alchemy, with a focus on the Cronos device and its inventor.

in The three amigos
The Golden Army
Deborah Shaw

Hellboy II: The Golden Army follows on from Guillermo del Toro's first feature in a number of ways. In this film, del Toro develops his role as a director of monsters; he continues to cross genre and cultural boundaries, bringing elements from high art and art cinema into this commercial venture. In this chapter, the author engages in discourse analysis to see that the presented paratexts reveal about the new ways in which auteurism can be cultivated through new media forms. She examines the ways that del Toro takes pains to insist on his creative power and authority through paratextual means. She provides an analysis of the text and consider its position within del Toro's filmic universe, and assess its relationship with El laberinto del fauno. This film appears to be diametrically opposed in terms of genre and niche markets, but it shares many visual and narrative traits.

in The three amigos
Breaking through the barriers of filmmaking
Deborah Shaw

For many, El laberinto del fauno marks the pinnacle of Guillermo del Toro's filmmaking career. It is a film that has allowed del Toro to realise his creative potential, unencumbered by the budgetary limitations of Cronos or the rules governing Hollywood-funded genre products. This chapter explores the ways in which a freedom to create a new form of cinema is manifested in El laberinto by examining how the film traverses borders and creates a new hybrid form. It considers whether El laberinto can be read as a feminist film. The aspects of El laberinto can be neatly fitted into David Bordwell's formulation of 'realism, authorship, and ambiguity' and Stephen Neale's notion of the 'primacy of art'. Art cinema audiences have their expectations met by cultural references from the realms of 'high art', the use of the colour palette, and the engagement with serious social issues.

in The three amigos
Deborah Shaw

From Amores perros, to 21 Grams, to Babel, to Biutiful (2010), Alejandro González Iñárritu and his team have travelled from Mexico, to the USA, to multinational landscapes, and to the immigrant world of Barcelona. This chapter considers Amores perros within the context of Iñárritu's trajectory as a filmmaker. It demonstrates the ways in which Amores perros establishes signature traits that will be developed in the subsequent films that he directs despite the shifts in national contexts and production modes. Amores perros is divided into three stories or chapters, Octavio and Susana, Valeria and Daniel, and el Chivo and Maru, with each focusing on a key character. Several critics have focused on the Hispanic and specifically Mexican elements of the film. The chapter considers the allegorical implications of the parallels made between absent fathers and the failing state under the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party.

in The three amigos
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An American independent film made by Mexicans
Deborah Shaw

The film, 21 Grams, is made by the core team of Alejandro González Iñárritu, Guillermo Arriaga, Rodrigo Prieto, and Brigitte Broch. The score for the film is provided by Gustavo Santoalalla and is taken by the critical community, both popular and academic, as an American independent film, with the Mexican identities of the central filmmakers glossed over. The complexities involved in ascribing national identity to a film such as 21 Grams point to the inability of simplistic categories of national cinema to adequately explain shifting cinematic landscapes. The film's themes also speak to a contemporary North American cultural landscape. The chapter explores the following three areas with specific reference to 21 Grams: the relationship between the filmmakers, the film text, and the studios; the status of the director/auteur; and the cinematic languages used.

in The three amigos
Deborah Shaw

Babel is one of the films of the Guillermo Arriaga/Alejandro González Iñárritu collaboration. Babel sets out to be a new sort of film, one that attempts to create a 'world cinema' gaze within a commercial Hollywood framework. This chapter examines how the team approaches this and asks whether the film succeeds in this attempt. It explores the tensions between progressive and conservative political agendas, and pay particular attention to the ways 'other' cultures are seen in a film with 'third world' pretensions and US money behind it. Babel takes some of the most pressing contemporary social issues in its attempt to make a film about 'the world'. Nevertheless, as befitting a Hollywood world cinema text, it privileges a North American point of view, even when it appears not to.

in The three amigos
Deborah Shaw

Alfonso Cuarón's filmmaking career has many parallels to that of Guillermo del Toro and Alejandro González Iñárritu. All have made a first film in Mexico, before consolidating their careers in the USA. Cuarón's first film, Sólo con tu pareja (Love in the Time of Hysteria, 1991), was a national hit, but did not have the necessary ingredients or support to be a global success. Four years after making Sólo con tu pareja, Cuarón began his Hollywood career with A Little Princess. With this and Great Expectations, made three years later, the director attempted to carve out a name for himself by forging a personal style, with the help of cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki. Through a focus on Great Expectations, this chapter explores Cuarón's distinctive use of colour and mise-en-scene, and examines the purposes they serve in pursuing auteurist ambitions.

in The three amigos