Alfonso Arau and the experience of being the Mexican who directed Woody Allen

Mexican cinema

On his 90th birthday we remember him with one of the most bizarre and least remembered movies of him.

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Woody Allen was directed by a Mexican.  (Photo: Getty Images)
Woody Allen was directed by a Mexican. (Photo: Getty Images)

Boast of working with Woody Allen it is not something that is frowned upon today due to the culture of cancellation. Today there is rejection of his figure for accusations of abuse against him, specifically to the detriment of Dylan, the adopted daughter he had with actress Mia Farrow. For his detractors, his work even takes a back seat.

Yet two decades ago it was a source of pride. The name of the New York filmmaker meant a lot, too much. For many Mexicans knocking on doors in Hollywood, even greater. Such was the case of Alfonso Arau, a director who could and can boast of having directed Allen in Picking Up the Pieces (Cachitos picados), a black comedy made in 2000 and that arrived in Mexico in 2017.

But in our country people thought differently. The film did not attract the attention of distributors and exhibitors at the time. And that had a great cast: Sharon Stone, Kiefer Sutherland, Fran Drescher, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Elliott Gould. Not even due to the presence of David Schwimmer (an actor who became popular for his participation in the hit series Friends) was attractive to make it to the billboard.

It took 17 years for it to be taken into account in Mexico, although not by commercial chains. It was thanks to a retrospective of the National Cinematheque that could be seen for the first time in our territory. What’s the story about? Tex Cowley (Woody Allen) murders and dismembers his wife Candy (Sharon Stone) after discovering that he is unfaithful to Sheriff Bobo (Kiefer Sutherland). In his intention to disappear the remains of the corpse, a hand is lost that is found by a blind woman who regains her sight as soon as she touches the limb, assuming that it is a miraculous hand that is worshiped.

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For Arau it was not so complex to direct Allen. Both were trained in comedy, so they got on well. On the other hand, the Mexican had complete notion of the improvisational domain that his American colleague manages, so he only gave him indications of movements in front of the camera, giving him the freedom to invent the dialogues.

Arau commented in 2017 that he laughed a lot during that filming. He shared that the sound was spoiled on several occasions due to laughter caused by Allen’s humor on set. He considered him a genius, an out of the ordinary to work with. In short, your experience was pleasant.

Despite this, Picking Up the Pieces It happened at night for the Mexican public. It can well be said that it did not exist for almost 20 years. It appears as a curricular data in Alfonso Arau’s filmography, however it is non-existent for viewers. And it seems that this will continue because the plot and its protagonist are not a good combination in today’s world.

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