Thursday, December 11, 2008

TIMECRIMES & BEFORE THE FALL: Interviews with directors Nacho Vigalondo and F. Javier Gutiérrez

In honor of the Spanish genre movie TimeCrimes (Los Cronocrí-menes) opening in New York City tomorrow -- in its original Spanish language version (thanks, Magnolia!), I’ll post the interview done last week with its Oscar-nominated director Nacho Vigalondo and his compatriot, F. Javier Gutiérrez whose Before the
Fall (Tres Días)

looks as if it may be optioned for a Hollywood remake, as well. TimeCrimes already has been (there's talk of David Cronenberg directing), so some cause for rejoicing, now and for the future, is in order.

At the time of this interview I had seen neither of these filmmakers movies (I have now; reviews can be found here, and I usually don't schedule an interview until I do. But because Spanish genre films suddenly

seem to be doing somewhat well in Spain -- and even better internationally -- a conversation seemed in order.

Trust Movies: If I understood correctly what you two were saying during the press conference earlier today, Spanish genre films are finding an audience in their home country now.

There is a long, long pause -- followed by an outburst of laughter from both men.

Nacho Vigalondo: I don't know. There is a big distance between the movies that work well with really big audiences and the movies that don't have such as healthy relationship with the audience.

Hmmm… Give me an example of a movie that does not have such a healthy relationship with its audience.

You know the movie Santos from the Chilean director Nicolás López? This movie had the same kind of big marketing campaign as a movie like The Orphanage, and yet it did not work with audiences at all. Not at all. It was almost close to zero with the audiences. That movie had this potential with young people, it could easily have done well. But no… But I should talk about my own movie in this regard.

Actor/director/writer Nacho Vigalondo, above, in his TimeCrimes

Has TimeCrimes opened in Spain? And did it do well there?

It did only medium. Not spectacular, but not bad. I think eventually the movie will make money but not because of the Spanish box office. More because of the international sales.

Javier Gutiérrez: Yes, and I think my movie, Tres Días, too, may make money but due to international sales.

Downstairs during the press conference, someone mentioned the movie seen at last year's SCN fest, Yo by Rafa Cortés, as a typical film that failed in Spain and then did excellent business, opening internationally in a dozen countries .

I think this all has to do with the way movies are sold and distributed in the Spanish territory

That's what you all seemed to be saying downstairs: that Spain does not understand how to sell a movie properly.

It's true

And someone else mentioned Spanish guilt as another reason for this. Was it you who said that, Nacho?

Yes, I believe it's guilt.

Guilt about what?

Guilt about trying to be as sparking as the American world. We don't believe that we ourselves can be happy and shining and as good as the Americans.

But you are. If not, what are Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz and the like doing?

For example, Javier Bardem was a very badly received actor in Spain many times earlier in his career. Penelope, too. They used to say about Bardem that he does not know how to speak, how to say his words. When he became an international star, then he was better accepted at home.

What is this about not speaking well? I think he speaks very well.

We have a problem in Spain, because all the foreign movies are dubbed so the audience is used to this, and in dubbed movies the way you talk and the way you act are very different from each other. And because all films that comes from the outside are dubbed, so when audiences see a Spanish film, which is not dubbed, they think that Spanish actors are speaking poorly because they are used to seeing only dubbing. For example, if I would just talk to you, I would talk in a natural way like this: (Nacho talks to me -- clearly, understandably, and very naturally). Now, if I were a dubbed actor, I would be speaking like this: (Now he speaks in a much smoother, more formal manner).

I get it. So Javier Bardem was simply speaking in a realistic way.

Exactly, but he had to become an international star before all the Spanish audience was ready to accept that he is really good.

Above, from Before the Fall (Tres Días)

Javier: Yes, this is true but this is not the entire story. We are also dealing with something innate in Spanish culture. Nacho's movie TimeCrimes is a movie about time travel, and my movie is about an asteroid coming toward earth which will destroy it. You know that one or two months before our films were to be released, all the word on the street on the internet was that, Oh, these movies will be crap because they are just Spanish films

The internet is wonderful in many ways but it can be really damaging to new work because there is so much on the net that is simply stupid gossip.

Yes -- the word was that Tres Dias (Before the Fall) would be ridiculous because it was a Spanish movie trying to present the apocalypse.

That is ridiculous. Why should not a Spanish movie be able to tackle any -- any -- subject at all? The movie may end up being crap, or it may be good, but why pre-judge it? Is this some attitude left over from Franco?

Nacho: Well, today, being a filmmaker in Spain, for the common man it means that you are in political terms, that you are on the wrong side. If you are a Hollywood movie then you are on the left side. Spanish movie are helped along a lot with money from the government Not a big percent but, still, something. Some people are pretty upset by this and that we don't deserve to be helped by public funds.

Javier: It is also other things here too. We are still very critical of ourselves, and the political stuff is there, too. So we make movies that are not so political.

Were these both your first movies?

They answer, Yes and Yes

Did you also make shorts first?

Yes and yes again.

Nacho: And when you are a Spanish short filmmaker, you have this good feeling surrounding you. People love you because you are a filmmaker of shorts. And you are kind of cute, and you are making films that maybe win a prize or two outside of Spain. But, oh, when you stop making these shorts and move on to feature films, then you are in trouble. Instead of being a hero you are a problem. Maybe it all comes back to the fact that we do not believe in ourselves.

Javier: It all comes back to the problem that if people think it is a Spanish movie then it will not be a good movie. And they don't go to it.

Did you guys see La Soledad -- the film that won last year's Goya for Best Picture?

(Nacho did, Javier did not.) Nacho: I liked it.

I think your country should be so proud of itself that you voted it Best Picture. This has never happened so far as I know in any western country: picking an art film, even an art film that was accessible, as Best Picture.

At this point, the PR person appears and grabs Nacho away from us, so Javier and I continue talking.

Tell me how you came to film Before the Fall (Tres Dias).

Well, I did not have much money but still I wanted to do something that was different, special, that had not been seen before, that would make people say, Wow-- that sequence was very cool! I wanted to make a movie that had the feeling of one of the fairy tales I had loved from my childhood -- like Hansel and Gretel but a movie that was very dark. But also that the film would have a redemption story to it. And it would all come about at the end-of-the-world.

Did you ever see a move called Last Night from the Canadian Don McKellar.

No, but they told me about this film during my interviews.

I somehow think my movie is not a great as this one, but still, I tried to keep my focus on the family, and the connections , the tenderness of the children, even through all the brutality and pain.

Although this ended our official interview, I spoke to both directors later, after their films had screened -- to a good response -- at SCN, and later still, at the luncheon attended by distributors, filmmakers and press, where both directors seemed hopeful about further release of their films in the original language, and of the possibility, fingers crossed for a good result, of that equally anticipated and scarifying "remake."

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