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.

Must see exhibit: Stanley Kubrick at LACMA

Authentic film buffs and admirers of the “cine de autor” genre have pretty high standards for their movie preferences, and surely Stanley Kubrick must be on top of their list.

He was a genius and a little far out in his ideas, one of those once in a lifetime people who changed the world (and how we see it) through his movies. Lucky for us in Los Angeles, at the moment we have an amazing exhibit that allows us to get to know the mind and the work of Mr. Kubrick.

Ongoing till June 30, 2013 at the Los Angeles County Museum of Arts (LACMA) “Stanley Kubrick” is a great collection of the work of Mr. Kubrick, from his early days when he started out as a photographer for Look Magazine all the way to his film masterpieces. There are entire sections dedicated to A Clockwork Orange, Lolita, Paths to Glory, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Dr. Strangelove, The Shining, and Barry Lyndon. There’s a collection of his film cameras, lenses, scripts and production notes, images and costumes from his movies, as well as personal mementos. It’s a real treat for movie lovers.

I never considered myself a fan of Kubrick’s work, (yo me veo mas como una Woody Allen person) but after this exhibit, this film god has my total admiration. Be sure to catch it if you can before it leaves in the summer.

Here are a few glimpses from Kubrick at LACMA.

The Kubrick exhibit at LACMA runs until June 30th. Go see it!

The Kubrick exhibit at LACMA runs until June 30th. Go see it!

in 1949, a young Stanley Kubrick was a photographer for Look magazine. This is a great picture of Rocky Graziano.

In 1949, a young Stanley Kubrick was a photographer for Look magazine. This is a great picture of Rocky Graziano.

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The wing for 2001: A Space Odyssey.

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I always found this movie to be very creepy. “A Clockwork Orange” is on full display.

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Remember these? Ay ay ay… “The Shining” cuatitas costumes on display.

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One of Stanley Kubrick’s favorite cameras, a Arri, for which he had special lenses made. Got goose bumps just to think what this camera has captured.

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“All work and no play make Jack a dull boy.” Yes, the typewriter is here.