Monday, April 02, 2007

Reed Johnson interviews Mexican director Felipe Cazals.

A singular Mexican filmmaker has been getting lots of attention here lately. What's shocking is that his name isn't Alfonso Cuarón, Guillermo del Toro or Alejandro González Iñárritu.

Back in the late 1970s, when the so-called Three Amigos were in high school, director Felipe Cazals was busy pushing cultural hot buttons and flaying cinematic sacred cows. He was part of a group of Young Turks, akin to the Coppola-Scorsese-Spielberg troika, that helped lift Mexican cinema from the slough of institutional mediocrity that had followed its Golden Age of the 1930s through the 1950s.

Along with such maverick colleagues as Arturo Ripstein, Jorge Fons, Jaime Humberto Hermosillo and Paul Leduc, Cazals brought auteur-ship — the French New Wave ideal of the all-powerful, visionary director — to Mexican cinema.

In an interview, the still-active filmmaker, who will turn 70 in July, said he remains "very close" to his director brothers-in-arms whose careers took off at the same time as his. Many young Mexican directors such as Del Toro, whose "Pan's Labyrinth" won three Oscars this year, have acknowledged a debt to Cazals' generation of free-thinking, self-reliant filmmakers.

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