Beginning with 1995’s Great Expectations (starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Ethan Hawke), Alfonso Cuarón had a spectacular run of cinematic gems – Y Tu Mamá También, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Children of Men, and 2013’s George Clooney starring Gravity, for which the Mexican writer-director won a Best Director Oscar – that would surely be the envy of almost any contemporary filmmaker.
Last month his gripping new, semi-autobiographical film Roma arrived in theaters, and has since been universally hailed as an uncontested masterpiece (Joe Morgenstern of the Wall Street Journal called it, “one of the best movies I’ve ever seen, and one of the most moving”). The plot is focused around a housekeeper for a middle-class Mexico City family in the 1970s – and it is a highly emotionally charged work.
Yet it is as much a visual meditation on a time gone by, taking the audience back to a place that has changed so much since then. Indeed, rarely has a film so poignantly captured the visual aesthetic of the period it is meant to evoke; which only makes the new accompanying Assouline book Roma such an essential treasure, for both fans of Cuarón, and devotees of the fine art of cinematography.
Page after page of striking images allow the reader to ruminate on a moment in Mexico City time, viscerally reminding of what an equally volatile and spellbinding a capital it really is.
“There is something about Roma,” observes venerable Mexican author Valeria Luiselli. “It produces a reverberation, it lingers inside you way after the movie has ended.”
Roma the book hits shelves in January, just in time for Oscar consideration. But consider pre-ordering it as a particularly weighty Christmas gift, for those cultured friends who simply don’t need another boring sweater or redundant bottle of booze.