Craig Boehman: We've spoken previously of the clan of directors you admire: Lynch, Nolan, Cronenberg, and Aronofsky. All these guys are pioneers and geniuses in their own right. What's your take on them, and how have they influenced your work?
Abel Fernandez Blanco: Well, I can say that I would sell my whole family for one of these guys' brains, so I'll be as concise as I can.
I can still remember the first time I watched Twin Peaks. I just wanted to know who had done it and got hooked to such powerful imagery. People too often get obsessed with trying to understand him, which from my point of view, is like trying to be sure your interpretation of a poem is the one the author had. In my case, I just enjoy riding the roller coaster.
Aronofsky, on the other hand, is one of the most talented young filmmakers, and besides being great from a technical point of view, visually appealing and shocking, his greatest virtue is that he walks on the catwalk, and he doesn't fall into the void just for a close shave. He keeps on risking. And whether you like it or not, he sets a path I'd love to follow. The more you risk, the better. He won Sundance with Pi, and winning Sundance is my wettest dream.
Nolan, finally, deals with tortured characters in his films, but he crosses genre boundaries with that, never mind if it's a thriller, sci/fi, a superhero movie – he dignifies anything he does. Some of my collaborators consider he works with great artifacts and fireworks and his movies seem deeper than they really are. But hey, someone who got that Burton cries every time he compares his Batmans to Nolan's deserves extra respect. And I still think that "I can't remember to forget you" from Memento is one of the best lines ever; it sums up all the suffering of Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce's character) due to his anterograde amnesia, which is also perfect for heterogeneous editing.
AB: Well, from Cronenberg I like all his films, how he began with sci/fi movies and could move to more common stories without loosing quality and a great focus on tormented characters. He's a great character filmmaker, and that's what I like the most about him... somehow like Nolan himself, whose characters are always followed by a shadow of guilt, even in something so mainstream as Batman
CB: Existenz was great. I've watched that a million times. Most people don't know about it or at least I get blank stares when I mention it. I've always liked the line about "the special" at the Chinese restaurant.
AB: Sure, it was. Moreover, who can beat a guy who adapted Naked Lunch by Burroughs to cinema, when I even had a hard time reading it?
|From "El Bar del Despertar"|
CB: Yeah, reading that book is a struggle.
AB: Most people think Requiem to a Dream is one of the greatest works on drug abuse, and while it is great, it isn't a thousandth part as raw a Junkie.
CB: Or maybe even Trainspotting – in particular, the scene with the dead baby.
AB: Boyle is a great director too, just it's hard for me to consider him as big as others as he doesn't focus – he can go from one topic to another, one gender to an opposite one, without a link that makes it a personal work.
CB: There was a playfulness to Trainspotting that I found in A Clockwork Orange as well. The misfits on an adventure, and how it turns out for the worst.
AB: Having lived in Britain, I can tell that there's people like them.
CB: And there are plenty of them here as well sans the Brit accent. What films do you find yourself revisiting?
AB: Here we go, the most difficult question ever. I can see the same film two hundred times and always find something new, rediscover why I love it or find myself quoting the best lines. So, I can consider myself a hardcore re-visitor, even of series such as Twin Peaks or Six Feet Under, which have been unbeaten in my top.
CB: There's this movie I've obsessed over called The Last Minute. I haven't found it on DVD yet but I used to watch it on VHS. There's like this London crime genre that's out there that many of the English setting movies cross into, like the Guy Ritchie movies, Snatch, or Layer Cake – which I loved. Any favorites from that genre?
AB: Well, you just mentioned them all and just have to add Rocknrolla.
CB: I haven't seen that one.
|Crew on "My Salvation"|
AB: The Last Minute by Stephen Norrington, who is better known for having directed Blade, is a must too.
CB: Not a bad under-the-radar movie to have next to Blade.
AB: European cinema has to fight twice as hard to get into the circuit.
CB: Yes. You either have to go protectionist like France to survive or hope to draw some big name actors like Daniel Craig, who is loyal to the British film industry. Hollywood has tainted the pool.
AB: At least you can be independent in the States. Here, independent equals underground, mainly.
CB: And sometimes I think that the only thing that has made that possible is the advent of digital shooting.
|From "El Bar del Despertar"|
AB: Absolutely, it has made cinema much more democratic. No doubt about it.
CB: These independent guys can take a couple high-def cameras and really make something of great quality for less than five grand per camera.
AB: In fact, that's the way we're working.
CB: Yeah, so talk about your gear and how you do set ups.
AB: We work with HD cameras with rented lights that we can afford because the renting company makes us a special price... have the whole crew working 200% and a great editor working with a computer, which gives us total freedom for creating and controlling the process in The Mole – our next project – that must be really familiar to you. We're experimenting with new gear and shooting with photo cameras.
CB: I've heard of this The Mole. Hehe. How many video cameras do you take into the field with you?
|From "The Mole"|
AB: It depends on the project. For The Mole, we are using three, for a music video we have used two or three, and even only one in a master take music video. And I did a short movie with only one actress and one camera.
CB: Do you find yourself going beyond your planned shots just because it's so easy and cheap to to digress for the sake of experimentation, if time permits?
AB: Absolutely. In fact, I usually add a couple of shots that were not in the script if I have time to do so. It never hurts to have extra footage for the editor. Sometimes they even become some of the best shots, or at least, risky ones that I usually feel proud of, and, only if I'm lucky, others agree and the crew enjoy shooting them.
CB: Let's talk about your upcoming shoot for The Mole. The last time we spoke on this, you were scouting for locations. Did you find the perfect spots?
AB: It wasn't as easy as if it was shot in New York, Seattle, San Francisco, or even Portland – but I think we got some locations that will be neutral enough to be a global experience, which was my obsession.
CB: So you have the actress playing the central role, the preacher with the sign. Are there other shots involving extras, like yourself, for instance?
|From "El Bar del Despertar"|
AB: There are like about five extras and I'm not sure if I'll have a cameo role as I don't feel that comfortable in front of cameras. I'll finish the cigarette and go to class, but still have time for another question. It's a coitus interruptus, sorry.
CB: It's all right. Let's leave off for now.
[later, coming in on conversation already in progress]
AB: People make churches of the most stupid things. In Argentina there are thousand of followers of The Maradona Church, a cocaine abuser, ass-sniffing soccer player.
CB: That description just cracked me up.
|From "My Salvation"|
AB: I wouldn't even join The Ed Wood Church.
CB: I'd be more apt to join a church of Dionysus if they kept more than a piddly amount of communion wine.
AB: And a couple of virgins ready to lose their virtue now and then.
CB: Yeah, the good old days.
AB: I have an hour left if you'd like to ask more questions, even about politics and Dionysus.
CB: How your politics informs your art, or vice versa?
AB: Just make clear, the virgins were for you!
CB: Not knowing the protocols on accepting or denying a gift of virgins, I'll have to error on the side of civility.
CB: At some point you have to, though. Even humor can be taken seriously if it's communicating something worthwhile.
AB: Gilliam masters it.
CB: Talk about Gilliam a bit.
AB: I can talk about Gilliam a year and still have things to say. While others force themselves to be weird, I see him as a real anarchist in cinema, someone who can give a big middle finger to industry with his movies, his attitude, and have a message that gets through. Not all his movies are masterpieces, but he mixes most of the things one would like to see on screen. Brazil is the closest thing I've seen to Orwell in cinema, and it is still hilarious at some points. Twelve Monkeys is a fire-starter if you want to understand its message and so on. I always say that if Burton had talent, he'd be called Terry Gilliam.
|From "My Salvation"|
AB: And every time something goes wrong in preproduction or shooting, you can always think that worst things happen to him, even the death of the main character in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, a great movie, by the way. In Gilliam, we trust!
CB: I mean, you have the death of the main actor, and they you got out and snag a few guys and have to incorporate it all. I've read about it, but somehow missed seeing it.
AB: Give it a try and you'll see how only a genius can incorporate it into the story instead of using technology to clone Heath Ledger.
CB: He could have taken the easy way out – if it were easy – and find a Ledger clone. Pull a Simone or something. But I thought, what a clever thing to do. And gutsy.
AB: I'm afraid "easy" is a word that dropped from Gilliam's dictionary. Smoking and writing isn't always that simple.
CB: I've seen Pitt in movies where he was very marginal. And I've seen his marginality brought to certain heights, like in Twelve Monkeys. Or even Fight Club, although Norton was only really needed to pull that off, and Brad was there to make it bankable, at least in DVD sales.
AB: Well, Fight Club and Twelve Monkeys were the first movies to show that Pitt was a great actor. I always thought that being attractive was a curse to him as people didn't take him seriously. In fact, in Twelve Monkeys he stole the movie from Bruce Willis, which makes me really happy as I find him quite an asshole.
CB: I loved what he did in Twelve Monkeys, just like I love what he did in Snatch.
AB: Mickey is just great. In fact, Guy Ritchie is a great director when he doesn't think Madonna can act.
CB: That's for sure.
AB: When he got his brain where it should be instead of his pants, he did Rocknrolla, which is brilliant.
CB: And he was smart enough to take on the producer role in Layer Cake, even if he didn't come up with the story, I still thought it could have easily been a movie he would have written and directed.
|Crew on "El Bar del Despertar"|
AB: If you weren't told it was not one of his movies, you could believe it without any doubt. He did a great choice producing it. So, I just hope Lynch does the same with me!
CB: Lynch needs to take a trip out to Spain for holiday or something.
AB: Or I should assault him!
CB: I heard if you send him a few pictures of something dead, it might do the trick. He used to take photos of road kill.
AB: I could send him pictures of brain dead people. They are extremely easy to find. But in fact, I would be just happy if he could see any of my works, just as other artists I respect.
CB: We gotta get you into the festivals out here. It's a pity that it costs an arm and a leg just to get to some festival where you work might be accepted.
AB: I'll try with Cupidine and The Mole. It has always been a goal. Being an underground filmmaker makes you find alternatives.