1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Beautiful but not always satisfying documentary
Tryavna from United States
7 March 2013
Gabriel Figueroa is widely regarded as one of the greatest
cinematographers to work in black and white. He was also one of the
first Mexican technicians to attract the attention of filmmakers from
Hollywood and beyond, yet Figueroa never abandoned Mexico or the
Mexican film industry. While this decision may have limited his
international profile, it meant that he became an extremely powerful
figure in his own national cinema -- a status that few other
cinematographers have been able equal. In fact, apart from Diego
Rivera, Figueroa may have exerted more influence over the image we have
of 20th-century Mexico than just about any other artist. Back in 1994,
for instance, SOMOS magazine compiled a list of the 100 greatest
Mexican films, and it's impressive to note just how many entries on
that list Figueroa photographed.
This documentary pays tribute to Figueroa's legacy, but it doesn't do
so in a typical way. Basically, the documentary alternate between
thematic montages of Figueroa's work and interviews with some of the
greatest living cinematographers: Vittorio Storaro, Christopher Doyle,
Haskell Wexler, Raoul Coutard, etc. While it's very interesting to hear
them comment on Figueroa's legacy, the documentary is less successful
when it tries to follow some of the digressions they introduce. For
example, several of them talk about the future of cinematography in our
digital era. This, too, is interesting, but it seems out of place here.
And at 96 minutes or so, the documentary seems a bit long and
repetitive. Frankly, I'd have preferred a few interludes with more
traditional material. We don't hear much about Figueroa's background or
about his methods. Surely, some of the people who worked with Figueroa
in the 1970s and 1980s are still alive. It would be interesting to hear
from them. It would also be interesting to hear more about Figueroa's
working relationships. There's a section dedicated to his seven films
with Luis Bunuel, which is appropriate, but Figueroa also worked with
Eisenstein, Ford, and Huston. And then there's Emilio "El Indio"
Fernandez, with whom Figueroa collaborated around two dozen times.
Fernandez is almost as celebrated in Mexico as Bunuel is, yet he barely
gets a mention here.
When the documentary is showcasing Figueroa's work, however, it's
extraordinary. I once had the pleasure of seeing "Macario" projected in
35 mm, and Figueroa's cinematography has a tendency to wash over you.
At its best, this documentary replicates that experience, so I highly
recommend checking it out in a theater if you can. (Michael Nyman's
accompanying score is also effective at these moments.)
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