Cinema is universal, beyond flags and borders and passports.
I see only one requirement you have to have to be a director or any kind of artist: rhythm. Rhythm, for me, is everything. Without rhythm, there’s no music. Without rhythm, there’s no cinema. Without rhythm, there’s no architecture.
My mom had very low expectations for me, and she really had a point. I was a big problem at seventeen. If I had a kid like me, I would have those same expectations.
As the camera, I try to subordinate every word to be truthful and honest to each character’s context.
I think the most experimental way to a film is to tell the story the traditional way, because everyone is doing the other thing.
For me, the most important thing that I have to accomplish is to be a good father. That’s the most difficult challenge of my life. That’s the most important thing for me, more than films.
Life and death are illusions. We are in a constant state of transformation.
I have always said that innocence is much more powerful than experience.
Movies become art after editing. Instead of just reproducing reality, they juxtapose images of it. That implies expression; that’s art.
I’m always surprised when some director says, ‘When I saw this film, that changed my life.’ I don’t have that.
I really didn’t want to become branded as ‘that multistructural guy.’
I think that in order to be a film director, one has to be a warrior who shouldn’t be defeated by the daily onslaught of problems.
To make a film is easy; to make a good film is war. To make a very good film is a miracle.
Actors are exposed in a way that nobody else can understand. They are subject to the likes and dislikes of people their entire life, no matter how successful they are. At the same time, in order to be liked, you have to not be yourself. So it’s a very complicated human exercise – an alchemy that I have never understood.
In a world where irony reigns, where you have to separate, protect and laugh at anything that is honest or has an emotional charge, I bet for catharsis. I like to invest emotionally in things. And catharsis, when it touches the emotional vein, can open the doors of even those who protect themselves.
Directing non-actors is difficult. Directing actors in a foreign language is even more difficult. Directing non-actors in a language that you yourself don’t understand is the craziest thing you can possibly think of.
My cinema is an extension of myself. A sort of life-testimony of my vital experience, with my few virtues and my numerous limitations.
Everybody is looking for validation, no matter who you are, and I think that’s a need of the human condition – to look for affection or recognition or validation.
I realized – and I am probably the last person in the world to realize this – that we live our lives with no editing.
From the time we open our eyes, we live in a Steadicam form, and the only editing is when we talk about our lives or remember things.
I’m scared of horses, and I don’t know how to shoot them, but that’s what excites me. After 40 years old, if you don’t do some things that really terrify you, I don’t think they’re worth doing.
To question your own process is a necessity. If you don’t question yourself, it’s impossible to improve.
I think there’s nothing wrong with being fixated on superheroes when you are 7 years old, but I think there’s a disease in not growing up.
To become a celebrity, a name – and I’ve actually met some that speak of themselves in the third person – it’s scary. They become an object, not a human, complex, questioning thing where the cells are always changing.
I don’t know if I have a career or not, or where it ends or it begins. I have been working, doing what I do for a long time. But my creative process has always been so tortuous.
‘Birdman’ came from a very beautiful side of me, from a part of honesty and surrender about things.
All of us want something in life, all of us have flaws, and all of us have strengths. So, I always try to discover those things in a character and then try to expose it in one way or another.
I have never directed anything for the stage. I studied for three years in the theater, and it was a very, very scary experience to direct live, being so vulnerable without the possibility to control things, to be so exposed.
Filmmaking can give you everything, but at the same time, it can take everything from you.
When you have a fresh point of view that comes from the right side of the heart, it’s just so valuable. You can take it or not take it, but just that perspective can give you a lot of strength or make you reflect on a lot of things.
I’m an intense person. My own vision of life has always been heavy.
We have these ambitions that are very hard to accomplish because life puts us in our place. We have this battle with mediocrity.
Everyone’s terrified of being mediocre. Everyone wants to be special.
When you are shooting in a conventional way, you put nets around yourself. It’s very hard to fall and hit the ground. You can always manipulate things to make it not embarrassing. If the scene is a little bit bad, you can polish it or even take it out. You can hide your mistakes.
I think that when we wrestle with death… we start fearing life, because then we come to terms with something that is inevitable.
Irony is a great tool to deal with things. It’s an intellectualization, a way to go above things, which can work.
If you stretch tragedy, it will always become comedy. That’s the comedy that I like.
It’s famous that comedians have a very dark personal state of mind. I think, in my case, it’s the same. The only way to get deep is to have a balance, or a counterbalance.
I am not a depressive person at all, but I reflect a lot on my life, and life in general, from the perspective of death.
‘Biutiful’ is not about death. It’s about life. It’s a hymn to life.
You can better embrace life, you can enjoy it more, when you are conscious that it will end. You bite life.
I have been very lucky to have final cut in all my films; everything that is wrong in them is my fault.
Many Mexican directors are scared to shoot in Mexico City, which is why there are many stories in Mexican cinema about little rural towns, or set a hundred years ago.
Really, Mexico City has always been this big, complex monster of a city that has always had real problems and needs, and I’ve always found my way through it in different ways.
When I think about growing up, I feel most affected by two travels that I made working in cargo boats when I was 16 and 18. One of them crossed through the Mississippi and Baton Rouge and Mobile, Alabama, and another went all the way to Europe.
I didn’t have a normal academic career. I never studied cinema. I learned from life.
I have a lot of what you might call creative self-loathing – I have pretty high expectations, and they seem to consistently be higher than what I’m able to accomplish.
Look, I’m no purist – there are good superhero films, and there are bad ones.
Movies started out as an extension of a magic trick, so making a spectacle is part of the game.
Cannes or any other major festival is basically an animal in its own nature, creating very specific perceptions of films in a moment.
When you have critics filing on Twitter, it leaves no time for thought and perspective.
What good is making a jewel if nobody see it? But cost depends on the story. To get those performances in ‘Biutiful,’ you need that time. You need 60 takes in a scene and a year to edit. It’s not realistic to do it any other way.
You have kids studying master class visual arts who are pushed to make films that will be successful economically; that’s what they focus on. So they work for corporate interest instead of artistic expression.
It’s more enjoyable for me to know that life is finite. Knowing that, I would like to go to a party. When you get to the holidays, if you think that the holidays will be forever, you just take it for granted. But, if you know that you have just three days at the beach, you will be so happy to be there every day.
I have a notebook, and I know what decisions will be made in pre-production. Everything is pre-determined in the pre-production period. I visually design the whole thing, and I know when things will happen.
Freedom comes with a lot of responsibility. When you are by yourself, you have to develop a third eye.
Time starts out as a notion. But after you turn fifty, time is not a notion anymore but a fact that you start feeling clearly, and in a way, it pushes you to become present in the present.
I’m very curious, I guess, as a human being.
As a Third World citizen, I always feel that I need to express my point of view. Sometimes the points of view of Third World countries are never expressed. We don’t have that possibility, sometimes, to spread what we feel and how we see things.
I think that my films are basically family stories, beyond the fact that they are global and have political and social commentary.
I think we are defined as human beings through our families, no matter what kind of family – through our relationships with parents, brothers and sisters.
I began to learn about the camera and the actors. That gave me a lot of the skills. At the same time, advertising gives you a lot of vices, for example, an obsession for a superficial look, but at the same time, it gives you the capacity to synthesize the story – tell a story in one minute.
It’s hard for me to work for somebody else. I can work with someone, but not for someone.
I know how to work with people. I’ve worked with the same people for 10 years. I’m not that kind of auteur. I hear ideas.
When you have something that is bothering you, and then you articulate, take the time to really express it and see it clearly, to recognize. To acknowledge that is already a liberating energy.
In hotels, every time I make a reservation and they never find my name, they never can pronounce it; it’s so long, and sometimes they confuse.
For the actors, the talent is to serve the demands that I ask of them, to do it with naturality and truth, and to be honest when we were terrified.
To shoot a conventional film means that you are always covering yourself. You are putting nets and, in a way, letting bad decisions take over.
I learned with ‘Birdman’ that it’s liberating when you just lose yourself and go after something that terrifies you.
The visual architecture of ‘Biutiful’ is the most sophisticated of all the films I have directed.
‘Babel’ is about the point of view of others. It literally includes points of views as experienced from the other side. It is not about a hero. It is not about only one country. It is a prism that allows us to see the same reality from different angles.
I think bad movies are made around the world, not just in Hollywood. There are as many bad art films in the whole world as there are bad commercial films.
Fear of the unknown is a great creative partner.
I studied for three years in the theater, and it was a very, very scary experience to direct live, being so vulnerable without the possibility to control things, to be so exposed.
Nowadays, a critic has to watch 700, 800 films a year, and I know through experience, being a juror in prestigious film festivals where supposedly the best films are arriving, from twenty films maybe you see two that are good, one that is so-so, and one that is extraordinary. And the other sixteen are terrible.
When I have been exposed to so many films that are so bad, my soul gets crushed. I just feel intoxicated.
We are the only alive creatures that are mortals; the animals are immortal, which is why they live stupidly. We are the only creatures that know that we will die, but that is a gift. It’s important because we know we have to take advantage and squeeze life and understand why we’re here in the first place.
I think that people would like to, at all times, reject death and disease with technology.
3D is the way we experience life.
There was so much fear after 9/11, and that fear caused people to make the wrong decisions.
Americans easily forget that the air they breathe is the same as those in Europe or Africa or Asia; it’s the same air as Jesus breathed. I would like them to remember that connection.
Good directors don’t answer questions with their work. They generate debate and create discussion.
I’ve never done a period piece or a comedy, and that could be something truly different for me.
As a city, it is always compelling. But every day in Mexico City, I give thanks that I am alive.
The way America sees Mexico, if they have any sense of it, is like Taco Bell. Our countries are neighbors, and the only hard food to get in America is true Mexican. It’s impossible to find, even in L.A. Why is that?
I’m neurotic. I complain all the time. I’m a workaholic. And I’m never satisfied.
Innocence can be more powerful than experience.
Too much knowledge and analysis can be paralysis.
It’s harder to make real audio than special effects audio.
I like so many different directors: Scorsese, Coppola, Cassavetes, Jarmusch, Gus van Sant, Woody Allen and the greats like Fellini, Bergman, Tarkovsky and among current filmmakers von Trier, Ang Lee, Wong Kar-wai.
‘Amores Perros’ is rock, ’21 Grams’ is jazz, ‘Babel’ is an opera, and ‘Biutiful’ is a requiem.
We have always existed in different forms – carbon, oxygen, water, heat. Maybe Heaven is this brief period when the elements realize they’re alive.
I think we are all connected in this world.
To direct actors is difficult. To direct actors in another language is more difficult, but directing non-actors in another language is one of the craziest things that I have done and one of the most rewarding experiences I have had.
Millions of Mexicans leave their kids in order to take care of other kids. That’s a very painful thing.
I can be unbearable sometimes asking for so many takes.
If you stretch tragedy, it will always become comedy.
I’m usually very critical of myself.
It’s not anthrax or terrorism or AIDS that is the worst ill in our world: The most horrible disease in the world is hate.
I learned there are ways to approach life. You can never change the events, but you can change the way you approach them.
The corporation and the hedge funds have a hold on Hollywood, and they all want to make money on anything that signifies cinema.
That incredible bubble and high expectations built at festivals can work against a film.
You have to make millions on Friday night, because there are another 600 films waiting behind you, with explosions and everything.
‘Russian Ark,’ I adore – I almost cried at the end of that film, it’s so beautiful.
The way films establish the order of scenes is very artificial.
I think we do good things and bad things, sometimes simultaneously – or they may be the same thing.
I think films are bigger than structure.
I think I want to talk about life from the point of view of death.
When I was sixteen, I was an absolutely romantic guy. I fell in love every week. I mean, I was in love with everybody, but unfortunately, nobody was in love with me.
I think when you turn 50 you get a little melancholic in a way.
I learned with ‘Birdman’ that it’s liberating when you just lose yourself and go after something that terrifies you. The experience was so good.
I can’t understand the conditions of a corporate product being designed and getting millions. I admire it, it’s great, but I don’t know how to do that. I have to have the wheel.
At a very young age, I was influenced enormously by Julio Cortazar or Carlos Fuentes. In that literature, there’s always an exploration of different perspectives, points of view.
Always when you are doing films, the themes swallow you in one way or another.
Now that we’re poisoned with the culture of superheroes, I think it’s important to laugh about it.
I’m overwhelmed by the pain in the world; I’m affected by the news very much, and adding that to my work was becoming a little bit too much.
If the audience, in minute 50, is thinking about the way a movie is shot, there’s a problem. I want it to permeate emotionally.
Do you know the phrase, ‘The word ‘water’ will not wet you?’ It’s one thing to write down an idea and another thing entirely to execute it.
My kid will come home from seeing the latest ‘Transformers’ movie, and I’ll ask him, ‘How was it?’ ‘Amazing!’ ‘What was it about?’ ‘I don’t know, but it was amazing!’
I don’t have a career. I have a life.
Antonio Sanchez is from Mexico City. I met him at a Pat Metheny concert. He did a solo, and I thought, ‘This is an octopus man!’
Ultimately, with every film I’d done before, there was a reference. They have their own uniqueness, but there was always a precedent.
When you live in a city, as I do, where violence is really in the streets, and people die every day, there’s nothing funny about it.
I’ve listened to music all my life. I’ve always felt that music tells more stories sometimes than films, with more possibilities. Every time you listen to them, songs bring different images and moods – depending on where you are in your life, you can listen to a song, and it means something different.
I like to make films, but the only reason I do is because I’m a very bad musician.
When I went to university, I finally got exposed to European films, and they had a strong impact on me. I felt those films had a lot of things to say that weren’t getting expressed in the films I was used to seeing.
Sometimes reading scripts is terrible.
The problem with the screenplay is that it’s not literature, and it’s not a film. It’s a very weird, technical kind of blueprint that will be absolutely transformed into something else that is not that, you know? Honestly, a screenplay is no literature.
I think intelligence basically can be in a way defined by the possibility of having two opposite ideas living together and at the same time functioning. That’s why I think a smart script has two things living in the same place, and they’re absolutely contradictory.
We want to conquer the world and have 1,000 likes, 1 million likes, but at the same time, we are depressed. We are lonely, but we have 10,000 followers. We are all bipolar.
I always have considered Michael Keaton to be a phenomenal actor because he navigates drama and comedy.
It’s very healthy to be aware of your ego.
I’m an intense person.
Who cares about my opinions?
I have never met a superhero, but why are we so obsessed with superheroes?
When we are looking for validation, that will never satisfy us. When we are looking for affection, for love, a little bit of that will be enough to be complete.
When I was about to turn 50, I went into a kind of personal revision and observed my own priorities and what led those priorities in my life. And many things that, in a way, were profound.
‘Amores Perros’ is three stories that interconnect in one moment, which is the car accident.
’21 Grams’ is only one story told by three different points of view, but they are really physically connected – literally, with the heart.
My responsibility is to make a film and find my dramatic language; I don’t have any political or social responsibility.
Cinema is an infinite medium, so we should take advantage of it, I think.
I never deny a true experience in one shot.
I really try, at least consciously, not to be cynical or ironic.
I don’t like the ironic tone that our pop culture, in the world, has taken. Everything is ‘ironic.’ Everything is ‘cool.’
I am not a depressive person at all.
The cavemen, when they saw the antelopes, they had to scratch them on to the caves because they needed to express the immediacy of what they were being affected by – and I love that. That is why I do what I do. I need to express myself.
I have fantastic ideas.
‘Biutiful’ is a tough film. It doesn’t make concessions to the vulgarity of light entertainment. It’s not the kind of film that you see every day in the Cineplex. But as an artist, it’s the thing that I needed to do.
In families you can find the source of every human drama. It is interesting because the cell of a society, the cell of a country, the cell of humanity – everything lies in the family.
I started off writing TV adverts. I saw those as rehearsals for a feature film.
I think musically.
Films like ‘Babel’ can transcend the one point-of-view formula that has reigned for so long.
While ‘Babel’ is a foreign-language film in some countries, in others, it is a local film.
Two words guided the making of ‘Babel’ for me: ‘dignity’ and ‘compassion.’ These things are normally forgotten in the making of a lot of films. Normally there is not dignity because the poor and dispossessed in a place like Morocco are portrayed as mere victims, or the Japanese are portrayed as cartoon figures with no humanity.
When you do a film in a foreign language, you know there’s a cost in it, that you know, unfortunately, the audiences of foreign language films have not been cultivated. There’s a market, but the market has been reduced, unfortunately, and you know that when you’re making a foreign language film, you’re making a choice.
I have learned that I am a one-woman man.
Time is what allows stories to spread into people’s consciousness.
The creative process is mysterious; a conversation, a ride in the car, or a melody can trigger something.
I’ve learned to lose with a smile on my face. That’s what the Oscar teaches you.
On a transcendental level, a film is not going to be better or worse because there’s a prize behind it. The work will be what it is, with or without a prize.
People talk about the pain of defeat, but I think defeat has a lot of value. I think the wound of victory can be even more damaging than defeat. Very few people really know how to win.
If art doesn’t move people, then art has failed.
I define myself from a vision, from a point of view of life.
Writing is not an unknown territory for me.
I’m less interested in reality. I’m more interested in perception, the truth of the universe that we see.
I love the three-act theory. It works and works beautifully. But you don’t necessarily have to structure a story that way: Cortazar and Borges wrote in different structural styles.
I have ADD. I can’t pay attention to one thing too long.
The way I put together images is a reactive art.
I think Kurosawa was one of the first storytelling geniuses who began to change the narrative structure of films.
The expected vertical line of Ikiru’s narrative breaks when Kurosawa does a flash-forward in the middle of the film.
‘Ikiru’ is existential but with a lot of tenderness.
Irony became the head that bit its tail and then there is no way out.
When you see things upside down, the ego can be extraordinarily funny; it’s absurd. But it’s tragic at the same time.
I do think that the emotional weight of ‘Biutiful’ has blinded some viewers to the beauty and complexity of the film.
Yes, I am a Mexican, and I have a past and a culture. But what matters is the film itself, not where it was financed or cast.
It was liberating to do comedy. It felt like playing in a jazz band.
Now is a time where there are so many social networks, such need for validation… you don’t have to be a star or a politician to want to have likes or dislikes. Now there is a disease of popularity in the whole society.
I’m telling the same story in every film.
In ‘A Confession,’ Tolstoy found meaning that he could hold on to, and he lived for another 30 years.
I have a bad reputation, I guess.