The Book of Life
The Book of Life doesn’t open until October 17 and I can’t wait to see the finished film. I went to a presentation of clips from the movie and a Q & A with the film’s producer and legendary filmmaker Guillermo del Toro and director Jorge Gutierrez. The clips were beautiful, funny, and the music was fantastic.
The Book of Life is about Manolo (dreamily voiced by Diego Luna), a young, romantic bullfighter who is in love with the beautiful, independent Maria (Zoe Saldana). Standing in between them is the dashing Joaquin (Channing Tatum) who is a super macho war hero.
To get Tatum to understand the character of Joaquin, Gutierrez said to him “you’re basically Captain Latin America. You need to be every country – the bravado of Argentina, the smoothness of Brazil, the moustaches of Mexico.” He said that Tatum answered, “Oh, so just me.”
Gutierrez said he was surprised by how good Tatum was at improvising his lines and how funny the character ended up becoming. I was surprised by how good of a singer Diego Luna was and so was he apparently. It was his first time singing and he does it so well in the movie.
The music in the film is a mix of really interesting covers of popular songs. Guillermo del Toro, who was mentor and executive producer on the movie, said that the film combines popular culture with history and myths including that of Orpheus and Eurydice. Orpheus, like Manolo, takes a trip to the underworld for the woman he loves.
“It’s a mixture of everything we love,” del Toro said. “What is beautiful is you have … covers arranged with norteño and mariachi. What Mexico is, is more than just folklore. We all grew up in a Mexico that is also shaped by modern influences. It’s the way that we filter those influences that gives us who we are. It would be insincere to say all we have is the influence of our past. It’s how we rephrase our past.”
When Manolo goes to the underworld, it just happens to be on the Dia de los Muertos. The holiday, the day after Halloween, is a Mexican holiday (and also celebrated in other Latin American countries) and the movie takes place in Mexico, but it’s a universal story, del Toro and Gutierrez said.
“I could not be more proud of my heritage,” said Gutierrez who was born in Mexico City and moved to Tijuana as a child. “But at the same time, I don’t want to make movies just for Mexico. I want them for the whole world.”
He said two movies he admires are Spirited Away from Japan and City of God from Brazil because they give a slice of culture and place that everyone can relate to it.
“I want my son to be proud of where he’s from,” Gutierrez said. “I want him to really, really look at this movie and know the dirt that gave him life and tortillas that are in his blood.”
To learn more about The Book of Life, check out the trailer below.