Sometimes it’s hard for us mere mortals to believe that film gods like “The Three Amigos” Alfonso Cuarón, Guillermo del Toro, and Alejandro González Iñárritu were once flesh-and-blood human beings just like us. (Well, maybe not just like us, but the point is even film gods have to start somewhere, right?)
For this week’s Throwback Thursday post we’ve scoured the deepest bowels of the internet to bring you, our cherished readers, a glimpse into the raw, unrefined talent of these three cinematic juggernauts well before the Oscar nominations and the Cannes Palme d’Or.
If anything, we can all feel a little better about ourselves knowing that international super-stardom comes with time, hard work and rigorous attention to craft. It also doesn’t hurt if you’re born a genius.
Here are the films.
Cuarteto para el fin del mundo
Yes, Alfonso Cuarón was once just another film student like so many others. That is, until his was kicked out of Mexico’s CUEC (Centro Universitario de Estudios Cinematográficos) along with his close friend and fellow director Luis Estrada (El Infierno). While the reasons for their expulsion are no doubt complex, Cuarón summed it up by saying he and Luis were “un par de mamones”. Guess that’s a good enough reason as any.
Cuarteto para el fin del mundo was Cuarón’s second year project at the CUEC, and follows a depressive clarinet player through a fourteen day funk in which he plays with a turtle, throws some balloons out the window and sleeps in his closet. While Cuarteto is no Gravity, tell me that the extended zoom-out at 13:04 doesn’t echo Sandra Bullock silently drifting off into space in Gravity’s dizzying opening sequence.
Bonus: Ten pesos to anyone who can explain what the heck actually happens at the end.
Guillermo del Toro
Demonic invocations, pentagrams written in blood, elaborate monster costumes. There’s no mistaking it — this is the work Guillermo del Toro.
Based on a short story by Fredric Brown, Geometría tells the story of a desperate high school student who turns to black magic to ensure he never fails another geometry exam. After his mother gets eaten by a monster, it’s all downhill for our young hero.
While del Toro was only 23 years old when he shot this 9-minute horror-comedy, the director’s technical mastery is already more than evident in the creepy atmosphere and steadily building tension.
For those turned off by the third-generation VHS rip, a higher-quality version of the Geometría can be seen on the Criterion Collection’s 2010 DVD release of del Toro’s 1993 feature debut, Cronos.
Alejandro González Iñárritu
Detrás del dinero
Okay, perhaps it’s not fair to compare González Iñarritu’s highly polished, big-budgeted television debut to pretentious film-school exercises, but González Iñárritu followed a slightly different path from his other two amigos.
After spending most of his twenties as a rockeroradio-host, the director of Babel eventually founded a highly successful commercial production company called Z Films. Detrás del dinero was his first TV pilot as writer and director, and while it may look a bit like a New Edition music video, his unmistakable personal style is all over this 34-minute crime thriller.
The story follows a bank robbery and its subsequent investigation by el capitán, played by a young Damián Alcazar. Appearances are misleading when an innocent bank employee turns out to be the cold-blooded mastermind behind the operation. Jump forward to 26:45 for a Thelma and Louise style “Rock the Boat” sing-along that makes the whole thing just that much better.