"CUARON IS EVEN MORE OF A ROMANTIC THAN DE PALMA, IF SUCH A THING IS POSSIBLE"
Writing from the Venice Film Festival last month, Stephanie Zacharek posted a review of Alfonso Cuarón's Gravity for the Phoenix New Times, calling Cuaron "one of our greatest living directors." Zacharek states, "I'm thoroughly sick of 3D movies and I would have been happy to never have to look at one again. But I wasn't prepared for the way Cuarón uses it to explore both wonder and despair, in Gravity. Forget stretched-out blue people, Peter Max-colored flora and fauna, and explosions comin' at you: This is what 3D was made for."
Zacharek compares Gravity to Brian De Palma's Mission To Mars, as well as to Philip Kaufman's adaptation of Tom Wolfe's The Right Stuff, the latter of which she calls "superb." Here are the last three paragraphs from her review:
Gravity is both lyrical and terrifying, and sometimes Cuarón even merges the two, sending us into free fall along with his characters. No space movie arises from a vacuum, and the obvious comparative pulse points for this one include The Right Stuff and Brian De Palma's sorely underloved Mission to Mars. The Right Stuff isn't so much about space as about the space program, but Cuarón — who co-wrote the script with Jonés Cuarón, his son — captures the mingling of duty and curiosity that motivates any human being who actually makes it into space. And Cuarén, just as De Palma was, is alive to the empty-full spectacle of space and to the workaday poetry of the words astronauts use to describe it. At the time Mission to Mars was released, detractors made fun of the allegedly stiff dialogue. But have you ever heard astronauts — who are usually men of science, not Iowa Workshop grads — speak when they get that first long-distance view of planet Earth as a glowing orb? They grab for the simplest words, which are often the best...
Cuarón is even more of a romantic than De Palma, if such a thing is possible. He finds all kinds of ways to link survival in space with life on Earth. There, as here, anyone might have reason to feel loneliness, despair, fear, or exaltation, and homesickness — for a place, a person, a planet — is universal. Incidentally, the first person who tries to tell me Gravity is "unrealistic" or "implausible" is going to get a mock-Vulcan salute and a kick in the pants.
Given the amount of balderdash we have to swallow just to get through a typical summer movie season, taking a small leap of faith and imagination with Cuarón should hardly be a problem. Gravity is harrowing and comforting, intimate and glorious, the kind of movie that makes you feel more connected to the world rather than less. In space, no one can hear you scream. But a whole audience can hear you breathe. And that is a wondrous thing.
The New Zealand Herald's Dominic Corry also brings up Mission To Mars in his review of Gravity:
[Cuarón's] Children of Men famously features a bravura action sequence during which the camera maintains a single shot for almost four minutes without cutting. It's one of the coolest action scenes in cinema history, and when word emerged that Cuarón would be employing similar techniques in Gravity, film fans the world over rubbed their hands together in delight. Gravity isn't all long tracking-shots, but they make up the majority of the film, and enhance the tension to no end.
One of cinema's biggest proponents of the extremely long tracking shot is Brian De Palma, who I wrote about last week. Long tracking shots are a cool idea, but can be very difficult to pull-off without calling attention to the filmmaking. Hitchcock was a fan too; as was Robert Altman; but De Palma's voyeuristic style always best suited the technique in my mind - until Children of Men came along, that is.
Brian De Palma was also behind a widely-derided (but secretly awesome) film which now stands as a noteworthy antecedent to Gravity - 2000's Mission To Mars.
There's a full-on sequence near the beginning of the film which involves a space walk and a desperate attempt to grab on to a satellite. When details about Gravity started emerging, I hoped that it would be a movie-length version of this scene. And it is. In the best possible way.