Visiting Gabriel Figueroa @LACMA

Mexico has a long history of amazing cinematographers, but none is more beautiful nor visually eloquent as Gabriel Figueroa.

Gabriel Figueroa was a master of light and shadows, one of the most prolific Mexican cinematographers who shot the films that are representative of the Epoca de Oro del Cine Mexicano. He worked with the most famous directors and actors of his day and helped create a collective image of a time and place in Mexico that existed mostly in black and white. And the remarkable thing is he did it with a film camera, a light meter, and film negatives. Remember those? There weren’t any computers, no Photoshop nor digital tools back in the 1940’s. 

LACMA recently opened a new exhibit featuring his work and influence. “Under the Mexican Sky-Gabriel Figueroa: Art and Film” is a joint project between LACMA, The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, Televisa, Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes and Conaculta. I’m glad all these organizations got together to make this happen because there aren’t usually many exhibits dedicated to cinematography. This is a real treat.

As you walk through the hall you see montages on large screens of his films with the directors El “Indio” Fernandez and Luis Buñuel. What struck me most was how much a single image, a still frame of a moving shot, could be a stand alone piece of art.

Those images convey beauty, sadness, pride, melancholy or just profound admiration for the landscape and scenery, el paisaje mexicano. I was also struck by how much women cried in these stories- puro melodrama y sufrimiento- and how men were  always “engrandecidos y valientes” almost to a fault. There are bits of his work from the movies Flor Silvestre, Maria Candelaria, Enamorada, Bugambilia, La Perla, Maclovia, Un Dia de Vida, Los Olvidados, among many others. 

You also see the influence painters such as Diego Rivera and Jose Clemente Orozco had on Figueroa’s work. It was like he was applying film to their paintings. My dear friend Alex Munguia used to tell me that if I wanted to take better photographs, then I should study famous painters and try to emulate what they did. Of course he was right, but it became completely evident to me once I saw the relationship between Diego Rivera’s Murals of the Mexican Revolution and Gabriel Figueroa’s Cinematography. Isn’t it interesting how different art forms relate and influence each other? The medium is different, but both are equally powerful.

Mr. Figueroa lived to be 90 years old and stayed active in film and the arts until the end. I hope you can go admire his work in this fabulous exhibit. It runs until February 2, 2014.

Gabriel Figueroa in 1945 during the filming of "La Perla" (Dir. Emilio "Indio" Fernandez)

Gabriel Figueroa in 1945 during the filming of “La Perla” (Dir. Emilio “Indio” Fernandez)

Los ojos de Maria Félix, forever immortalized by the lens of Gabriel Figueroa.

Los ojos de Maria Félix, forever immortalized by the lens of Gabriel Figueroa.

There are plenty of screens with montages of his works as well as still shots and other memorabilia.

There are plenty of screens with montages of his work, as well as still shots and other memorabilia.

Mexican beauties as observed by Gabriel Figueroa, who wa snot afraid of the extreme close up. Among his leading ladies are Maria Félix, Dolores del Rio and Columba Dominguez.

Mexican beauties as observed by Gabriel Figueroa, who was not afraid of the extreme close up. Among his leading ladies are Maria Félix, Dolores del Rio and Columba Dominguez.

Maria Félix and Columba Dominguez in a dramatic moment.

Maria Félix and Columba Dominguez in a dramatic moment.

"Dia de Flores" by Diego Rivera, apr of the exhibit and cited as one of the references in Gabriel Figueroa's cinematography.

“Dia de Flores” by Diego Rivera, part of the exhibit and cited as one of the references in Gabriel Figueroa’s cinematography.

Even if she wanted to look ordinary, Maria Félix was stunning on screen.

Even if she wanted to look ordinary, Maria Félix was stunning on screen.

The contrast, shadows and light are simply beautiful.

The contrast, shadows and light are simply beautiful.

Un paisaje con la "Mujer Dormida" al fondo.

Un paisaje con la “Mujer Dormida” al fondo.

Pedro Armendariz in all his glory.

Pedro Armendariz in all his glory.

Para mi, Roberto Cañedo is the most attractive man in Mexican Cinema. Here he romances Columba Dominguez.

Para mi, Roberto Cañedo is the most attractive man in Mexican Cinema. Here he romances Columba Dominguez.

Posters from Mexican movies, in different languages.

Posters from Mexican movies, in different languages.

Gabriel Figueroa checking his negatves in 1994. This photograph was taken by his son, Gabriel Figueroa Flores.

Gabriel Figueroa checking his negatives in 1994. This photograph was taken by his son, Gabriel Figueroa Flores.

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Go see this exhibit on view at LACMA.

Go see this exhibit on view at LACMA.

Anthony Bourdain and Roy Choi talk “Guts and Glory”

Fans of Anthony Bourdain are a unique breed and I count myself among them. We absolutely adore the man and in our eyes he can do no wrong. Period.

Our favorite chef/writer was in town this week for a sold out presentation at the Pantages in Hollywood, where he shared the stage with our very own LA homeboy and the man behind the Kogi taco trucks, Roy Choi. (Gracias a la Karlita B. and Alejandra for the invite and to Lucia for coming with.)

“Guts and Glory” was the theme and it was a fascinating two hour conversation, interview style, con cada quien haciéndose preguntas from their own list. The main topic was food, of course, but it went far beyond that and turned into a great analysis of what’s going on today in our lifestyle, our culture, our worship of all things food related, business practices, good versus evil, celebrity chefs, and even racism in restaurants. De todo un poco!

The poster from the event.

The poster from the event.

Both guys are passionate about their stuff. Tony Bourdain was his usual, badass self when talking about McDonald’s and the other fast food chains, and how much he despises the fact that KFC now offers “boneless chicken wings” just to make it easier for the younger generations to eat the wings. “What does this say about us as a nation?!” The man is not shy about sharing his opinion, and when asked about his nemesis, la Paula Dean, he did not back off from his earlier controversial statements about her being the “worst person in America.” Yep, it’s pretty clear he still can’t stand her. As for Rachel Ray, he said they’ve made their peace and told everyone why he “can not dislike this woman.” (Se lo ganó la Rachel con un roast en donde ella le hizo unos comentarios un poco crudos that I can’t repeat here.)

But for me the real surprise was how close Bourdain and Roy Choi have become, even saying about Roy “he’s my brother from another mother.” Tony mentioned he was publishing Roy’s upcoming book and was extremely concerned when Roy became a vegetarian last year. “Are you OK?” he emailed him. Roy was charming, humble, honest and seems to be a really good person, concerned with the way his waiters and cooks are treated and even suggesting that homeless people be served at restaurants. (“Never gonna happen,” said Bourdain. “It’s still has to be a business.”) Me dio la impresión que el Roy es ‘paisa,’ ya saben como… buena onda, chistoso y muy chambeador.

Pantages-AnthonyBourdain

When it was turn for the audience’s Q&A, most questions for Tony were related to his new show, to his travels and to what he eats. When asked what his favorite restaurants in LA were, he mentioned a few, but remember him listing Son of a Gun, Mozza (from his buddy Mario Batali) and of course, In N Out Burger. You can’t go wrong with that. For his last meal, he’s changed it from the tuétano-bone marrow he loves to Jiro’s Sushi in Japan (I recently saw the documentary and it is wonderful!)

As for “Parts Unknown,” his new show on CNN, he says he has a new list of places he wants to visit and has the green light from the network to go anywhere he wants. If things work out and the production is secured, one of the places he’ll visit is Iran, since he wants to go eat the rice there, which he says is amazing. Roy then added that he now wanted to tag along. (Nomás que tengan mucho cuidado.)

Of course they also plugged this Sunday’s show where Bourdain comes to LA again, but now it’s to Koreatown, or the hidden part of LA as he calls it. Looks like it’s going to be an interesting show since both guys have a good dynamic and Korean food is delish.

One of my favorite moments from the night was when someone asked Bourdain why anyone should travel and see the world. His answer was very simple and very heartfelt. “It just makes you a better person, to see the world, walk in someone else’s shoes. I can’t recommend it enough.” 

Come back to visit us soon Tony Bourdain! We love you.

Anthony Bourdain and Roy Choi and their K-Town adventures air this Sunday on CNN at 9pm. (Photo from the on-air tv promo.)

Anthony Bourdain and Roy Choi and their K-Town adventures air this Sunday on CNN at 9pm. (Photo from on-air TV promo.)

Yeah. We'll be watching. (Photo from on-air TV promo.)

Yeah. We’ll be watching. (Photo from on-air TV promo.)

Cheap thrills.

Some of my family members were in town this past weekend and as an expert LA tour guide, I had the task of treating them to a nice time without breaking the bank. Ergo, a visit to the Farmer’s Market was obligatory. I can’t sing enough praises about this place. Truly a one stop shop for all your LA people watching-good food-entertainment-shopping necessities. Bueno-Bonito-Barato! Case in point, one of the most popular spots is Bob’s Coffee and Donuts.  We probably spent like 7 bucks and change for 4 small coffees, 2 apple fritters and one glazed donut. Not bad for a saturday afternoon “cafecito.” 

Bob's Coffee & Donut's

The best donuts in LA. De veras!

After the Farmer’s Market, we headed over to the Pacific Design Center. Unfortunately, it’s closed on the weekends so we couldn’t get in. But the security guard kindly suggested we go over to the MOCA building annex around the corner, in the same complex as the PDC, where there was a “free art gathering.” As it turns out, this was a reception and book signing for Dave Hickey, the art curator, who was signing copies of his book “The Invisible Dragon.” It was a full house, but we managed to get in and discovered a great bookstore and art space.  Who knew?

Art Lovers.

Art Lovers.