Arturo Ripstein (born 1943) is an Ariel Award-winning director whose work is often distinguished by a distinctive, slow-paced, personal style juxtaposing traditional Mexican values with themes of loneliness and isolation. Ripstein was born in Mexico City and raised in a middle-class neighborhood. He began his career as an uncredited assistant director on El ángel exterminador (The Exterminating Angel, 1962), working under the tutelage of Luis Buñuel. His father, veteran film producer Alfredo Ripstein, Jr., financed his directorial debut, Tiempo de morir (Time to Die,1965). Ripstein made the documentaries La causa (Tres preguntas a Chávez) (1976) and Lecumberri, el palacio negro (1976) before directing the Ariel Award-winning melodramas El lugar sin límites (The Place without Limits, 1978) and Cadena perpetua (Life Sentence,1978). After directing shorts and television series, Ripstein returned to feature filmmaking with El imperio de la fortuna (The Realm of Fortune, 1986), his first collaboration with screenwriter and life partner Paz Alicia Garcíadiego. The film was lauded by international critics and won eight Mexican Film Academy awards, including Best Direction and Best Original Story. Ripstein’s subsequent work includes Mentiras piadosas (Love Lies, 1988), Principio y fin (The Beginning and the End, 1993), and Profundo carmesí (Deep Crimson, 1996).
Director Arturo Ripstein is interviewed by Lourdes Portillo at the Centro de Creación Literaria Xavier Villaurrutia in Mexico City on September 23, 2015. This is a co-production with the Getty Foundation’s Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA initiative and is part of the project From Latin America to Hollywood: Latino Film Culture in Los Angeles 1967-2017. Ripstein describes his upbringing in a middle-class Jewish family in Mexico. He talks about his father’s role as a veteran film producer and his childhood memories of the Mexican motion picture industry. He conveys his particular fondness for Luis Buñuel’s Nazarín (1959), a film that introduced him to the possibilities of alternative cinema. After a brief stint in law school, Ripstein worked as Buñuel’s personal assistant during the filming of El ángel exterminador (The Exterminating Angel, 1962). He recounts making his directorial debut with the experimental film Tiempo de morir (Time to Die,1965) and working on the historical drama Los recuerdos del porvenir (The Memories of the Future, 1969), both produced by his father.
Ripstein shares his motivation in forming the cinema collective Cine Independiente de México and his thoughts on the decline of commercial Mexican cinema in the early 1970s. He speaks on his return to commercial filmmaking with El castillo de la pureza (Castle of Purity, 1973) and his first English-language film, Foxtrot (1976), starring Peter O’Toole. Ripstein details the production of the melodrama El lugar sin límites (The Place without Limits, 1978) and discusses the challenges of exploring themes of homosexuality and transgender issues.
He reminisces on his first collaboration with screenwriter Paz Alicia Garcíadiego on El imperio de la fortuna (The Realm of Fortune, 1986) and what they have meant to each other as mentors, muses and lovers. Ripstein talks about working with his father again on Principio y fin (The Beginning and the End, 1993), further explaining their complicated collaborative and familial dynamic. He shares memories of directing La reina de la noche (The Queen of the Night, 1994) and El coronel no tiene quien le escribe (No One Writes to the Colonel, 1999). Ripstein explains the unique possibilities provided him by shooting La perdición de los hombres (The Ruination of Men, 2000) on digital video. He explains the adoption of new technology in his approach to filmmaking, expressing his need to explore new aesthetics in film. Ripstein concludes with his thoughts on the future of Mexican cinema and applauds the next generation of directors for their Hollywood successes.