He shakes his head. "The problem with this is provincialism. I see films in Mexico that I can enjoy as a Mexican. I get the joke. I get the political resonance. But to grow into the international film community, you need to be more universal. I don't mean sell out. You can be very specific, have local color, like Amores Perros. I wish we could learn from Asian films, Zhang Yimou or Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. They keep their own culture but manage to be universal."
To support such internationalized films, he's formed a two-company partnership with a Guadalajara entrepreneur, Jorge Vergara, whose vision of the business is, Cuarón says, "amazingly humanistic." Their Mexican company, Producciones Anhelo, has so far launched Y Tu Mamá También and del Toro's recent horror film The Devil's Backbone. The American one, Monsoon Entertainment, is headquartered in L.A. (with a New York branch housed in the Good Machine offices) and is slated to back the indie film Speed Queen, the directorial debut of Christina Ricci.
This doesn't mean that Cuarón has given up on Hollywood. He expects his next project to be a "big-budget, big-star" adaptation of P.D. James' 1993 novel The Children of Men. Radically unlike anything he's done before, the story takes place a quarter-century from now and posits a world in which men have lost their fertility, there are no more children -- the youngest human being is 18 -- and life on Earth has gone into a tailspin.
"It's about what happens when there are no generations after yours. What's the point of doing anything?" I can feel Cuarón starting to get revved up. "The movie is about hope and all that stuff, but what I like is that I also get to play with a lot of contemporary icons -- everything from terrorism and globalization to refugee camps."
The Children of Men means working in Britain, and I imagine he wouldn't mind that at all. Everything about Cuarón makes it clear that he likes to keep moving. He sees his own life as a journey built on impulses, if not as a full-fledged road picture.
"Traveling is kind of second nature to me," he says. "Now I'm trying to settle down a bit. Even when I go someplace, I usually never end up at the destination of the flight. I was in Madrid once, and I thought, 'Okay, I need to get out of here.' I just put everything in a little bag and went to the airport and saw that there was a flight leaving to Cairo with a stop in Tel Aviv.
"I said, 'Great. I want to go to the pyramids. I've never been to the pyramids.' So I flew to Tel Aviv, and then I thought, 'Hey, Tel Aviv. Jerusalem is one hour away and I've never been to Jerusalem. Might as well go to Jerusalem.' So I did. I got off the plane. And three weeks later, I was still in Jerusalem." He booms a laugh. "I still haven't seen the pyramids."