‘Ema’ star Gael García Bernal on what he’s watching to stay sane

Phil de Semlyen
Written by
Phil de Semlyen
Global film editor

Hunkered down at home in Mexico City, Gael García Bernal is making the best of lockdown life. He has a stack of movies on his watchlist and finally some time to watch them all. With his new film – Pablo Larraín’s feisty, loose-limbed and rather brilliant ‘Ema’ – landing on streaming, he shared a few of his top tips and suggestions.

Movie to rewatch
‘What I’ve been enjoying most is watching classic movies from Mexico’s golden age of the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s. They’re so magical and innocent, and they give me huge melancholy and nostalgia. Many of them were made by [director] Emilio “El Indio” Fernández and photographed by Gabriel Figueroa, a fantastic photographer, and any of them would be a great discovery for someone to watch right now – try “La Perla” (1947).’ 

‘La Perla’ 

Uplifting movie soundtrack
‘Mica Levi’s soundtrack for “Monos” is wonderful. I love [Nicolas Jaar’s] soundtrack for “Ema” too.’

Streaming series I’m catching up on
‘I used to be a big watcher of box sets but, for some strange reason, I’m very bad at it now. After a couple of hours, I need to get moving. The only thing I’ve full-on binge-watched is “The Wire”. I couldn’t believe [how good it was]. My favourite season? Season four – in the school.’

Uplifting comedy
‘“Zoolander” and, of course, “The Big Lebowski”,  though that’s a common place to go to. And every film that [Luis] Buñuel did has an incredible comedic element. “The Exterminating Angel” (Buñuel's 1962 surrealist satire about a group of guests trapped at a dinner party) is a wonderful thing to see during this confinement.’

‘Zoolander’Photograph: Paramount Pictures

Dream box set 
‘A Buñuel collection. He was a pioneer in a time when film was still shaping itself and he made many great films – not only his own but those he made for hire like “Él” (1953), a film about male jealousy. If people like “Parasite”, they will see an immediate connection with Buñuel: he’s the grandfather of that type of cinema.’

Favourite book about the movies 
‘I'm going to sound incredibly pretentious but [Andrei] Tarkovsky’s “Sculpting in Time” meant so much to me in my youth. It might be boring for many people – it's a philosophical interaction – but I like that book a lot.’

Most missed thing about going to the cinema
‘I miss discovery. I’d go to my local cinema – the National Cinematheque in Mexico City – and half the time have no idea what I’m going to see. You can be there escaping without really caring for the film and all of a sudden it grabs you and you walk out feeling like a different person. You’ve seen something for the first time – something you couldn’t have seen in any other place.’

‘Ema’ is on Mubi from Sat May 2 in the UK, Ireland, India and Canada, and May 8 in Sweden, Finland, Norway and Iceland. Watch it for free from 12am BST on Fri May 1 by registering online. 

Looking for more lockdown inspo? Check out Martin Freeman, Gemma Arterton, Jim Sturgess and Kristin Scott Thomas’s streaming picks.

Or browse our mega list of the best things to do at home.

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