The greatest enemy of cinema today is feel good, says Arturo Ripstein. In the 51 years that he has been a feature filmmaker, the director has had to fight with producers and distributors to defend the more than 35 films he has made. “Obstacles serve to find alternate paths,” he says in an interview with The Sun of Mexico.
Those limitations are imposed by the same industry, where the cinema has become complacent to win at the box office and not in the background content, says the director of Deep Crimson and The Place Without Limits.
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“Cinema has become concessive, an object of commerce, not of discussion, nor of observation or expression. It is only and exclusively a salable product, like a motorcycle or a car so that everyone will like it ”.
“The fewer obstacles and fury there are, the better. We are in a period where all they want is to have their tummies caressed. And that is by no means art. Art is indisputably dangerous, and nothing is further from danger than the heap of films that win awards at festivals, ”he says.
Rispstein, who has presented films such as Así es la vida and El colonel has no one to write to him in Cannes, laments the situation in Mexican cinema at the moment, where most films are defined as “shameful.”
“All they’re doing is kind of an audition to see if Columbia Pictures hires them to make a movie. It is unfortunate the enormous amount of atrocious cinema that is being made in this country ”.
That cinema to which he refers, are the romantic comedies that have become the favorites of the public and that year after year dominate the box office of Mexican cinema. “You watch one of the top-grossing movies and they end up being perfectly jerks. That speaks very badly of the filmmakers and much worse of the public.
“Only a handful of directors have taken the breed out of Mexican cinema. And those are the ones who need an opportunity and that is sought through blood, sweat and tears.”
To survive in the film industry, the director assures that there must be a lot of “substance and knowledge.” In addition to, “a dose of good luck, and whoever does not have the courage and strength to go in and seek to the last consequences the possibility of carrying out the work that is embedded in his soul, will continue to be just as difficult.”
Not exactly from the soul, but from the mind of his wife, the screenwriter Paz Alicia Garciadiego, was where his most recent film came from: The Devil Between the Legs, which premieres this Wednesday. A story starring Sylvia Pasquel and Héctor Suárez that explores the chiaroscuro and the sexuality of an elderly couple.
“It is the antipode of the love movies of old people that are usually a couple who have lived their ups and downs, but where in the end there is a certain sweetness, empathy and an old balance that can be called love.
“In the case of this film it is exactly the opposite: he is a man in love with his jealousy, his meaning of life is that; and she is a woman determined by the horror of the company, but who ends up being infinitely better shared hell than heaven alone ”.
The story has a slight parallel with the reality of today. Both characters spend most of their time indoors, more by choice than necessity. “The movie detonates when they realize that the exits exist, but are somehow dangerous.”
Arturo Risptein premiered this film almost two years ago at the Toronto Film Festival. In October 2019 he had a gala performance at the Morelia International Film Festival.
By March 2020, the plan was to present the film at the Malaga Film Festival, where he was later recognized as Best Director. Although the film gathering would pay tribute to him, Ripstein refused to attend when he read about the Covid-19 outbreak in Spain.
“They insisted on us and I said no. And about three or four days later they called to say that the festival was being canceled due to the seriousness of the situation. From then until now I have been guardadito ”.
Like everyone else, the routine changed Arturo Risptein. Now he spends his days finding a way to distract his mind, reading, watching TV series or movies from his collection. He also learned to cook “something that he had practically never done before.”
In the afternoons, after finishing his working hours, he spends time with Paz Alicia. “At night or at lunch we have a drink and talk about what they tell us in the newspaper, or about the children or grandchildren. Having her is a great help, because talking is a way to get ahead, to eliminate sadness as far as possible ”.
The change in routine was not the complicated thing, the atrocious thing has been the length of the confinement.
“Unlike jail, you get your sentence, they put you in your cage and you know you will be there for three years; each day is one less. On the other hand, with the plague, each day that passes is one more ”.
Ripstein says that since his confinement began, every day is Tuesday. “It is a thoughtful day, because it is neither the beginning, nor the middle nor the end of anything. So living on a permanent Tuesday is a serious complication ”.
Although the film industry has begun to come back to life both in theaters and on film sets, Ripstein has no plans to direct again until the youngsters are not vaccinated.
“At my age, suddenly saying ‘I jump’, nope. I have to go with caution and with lead feet. You have to know where I step and what I risk physically. Mentally or emotionally I am willing to do anything, but physically I have to be very careful. I am of the fourth age ”, he jokes.