By Jordi ZAMORA
He was the first director in 60 years to win back-to-back Oscars, but Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu said he still struggled to generate interest in Hollywood for his return to Mexico with new film “Bardo”.
“Birdman” and “The Revenant” earned Inarritu an Oscar for best picture and two for best director in 2015 and 2016.
But only Netflix was interested in the follow-up, which means “Bardo” will only get a short theatrical run in some countries next month, before landing on the streaming service in December.
“This film was not wanted by any conventional studio,” Inarritu told AFP during a visit to Paris.
“It’s a personal film, a film in Spanish, a film that doesn’t have big stars, and it’s a film that… needed considerable funding.
“Only Netflix dared to let me make this film with absolute freedom and financial support.”
– ‘Profoundly Mexican’ –
The dream-like movie follows a journalist — a thinly fictionalised version of Inarritu himself — who returns to Mexico after finding success in the United States.
When it premiered at the Venice Film Festival last month, some critics felt the nearly three-hour film was, in the words of The Guardian, “outrageously narcissistic”.
Inarritu did not take kindly to some of the reviews — particularly the constant comparisons to Italian legend Federico Fellini (whose renowned “8 1/2” similarly focused on himself) — which he said bordered on “racism”.
“(Bardo) is profoundly Mexican,” he told AFP. “We have our own, ancestral references, of great richness and of a very particular style.
“Fellini was beautiful and great, but as far as I know, Fellini didn’t leave Rome, he was never an immigrant and he had no children. And my film is about fatherhood and immigrants. What does this have to do with ‘8 1/2’?
“Fuck — don’t we have our own filmmakers and literature? Our own imagination?”
But Inarritu does seem to have agreed with critics who felt the original cut was too long, having now shaved some 20 minutes off the running time.
He insists this was not a response to the reviews, however.
“Many of the visual effects came very late… I finished the film literally two days before I left for Venice, and the first time I saw it with an audience was in Venice with 2,000 people,” he said.
“(During the screening) I realised there were opportunities to get to the point a little faster in some scenes.”
– ‘Fractured identity’ –
“Bardo” is Mexico’s official entry for the Oscars, hoping for more of the country’s huge success in the 2010s.
Alfonso Cuaron also won two directing Oscars (for “Gravity” and “Roma”), while Guillermo Del Toro won best picture and best director for “The Shape of Water”.
But there is still a long way to go in redressing the imbalance of cultural knowledge between the two countries, Inarritu said.
“I have a total knowledge of American literature, history and music. But the vast majority (of Americans) don’t know our culture, our history. They don’t even know about the (US) invasion of Mexico” in 1846, he said.
“Bardo” is an attempt to discuss the strange relationship between the two nations — “there are no countries more different than the United States and Mexico,” he said — as well as the Spanish heritage of California with its millions of Hispanic immigrants.
“At my age (59), it was a need to try to put these contradictory things in order… to be able to learn from them,” Inarritu said.
“It was brewing for a long time and it was only now that I had the courage and ability and freedom to talk about them the way I did.”