Must-Sees - Master Class: Walter Hill

Must-Sees - Master Class: Walter Hill

“Everyone knows that I hate interviews, I hate being asked about my films, but I’m very excited about this talk for the Mar del Plata Film Festival.” Thus began Walter Hill, one of the most important directors of action, police and adventure films, in his long-awaited Master Class yesterday. And his stern gesture immediately gave way to a warm interview led by programmer Pablo Conde, in which the great U.S. director expanded on different topics over an hour and a half.

They began the dialogue by recalling the director’s childhood and the first artistic interests: “I remember that I was a child who got very sick. I caught everything that was going around. That’s why I went to school intermittently, and stayed home a lot. I read non-stop and listened to the radio. On weekends my brother and I would go to the neighborhood cinema, which for me was a temple of the gods, a huge screen where adventure and romance were present, something bigger than life itself. I had already developed my inclinations: I did not like literature, nor movies made for children. In retrospect, I realize that I was very advanced for my age, I felt very mature.”

The possibility of being part of the world of cinema was an unexpected longing. From one moment to the next, things would start to happen almost by coincidence: “I came to the world of cinema as an outsider. I was young, stupid, and underweight. History is always like this. It was due to a series of accident events… I did poorly in the physical exam to enter the army. So I got a job in a library as a researcher for a film they were doing on the Encyclopedia Britannica. Then I worked in the postal room at Universal Studios. After a while, they realized that I was too dreamy to be in a mailroom. And I started writing. Many people declare themselves writers, but you are not until you cannot make a living from it. I always knew that I wanted to be a writer.”

One of the attributes of Walter Hill’s cinema is the ability to introduce characters and the importance of telling a story: “Someone once said that the action is a character. Some of us try to include this in the essence of our work. What is revealed to the filmmaker are the stories he chooses to tell. My mother was religious, and until I was 15 she sent me to church and to catechism on Sundays. I realize that many of those stories stayed with me, and I would have liked to learn more, even though I am not a very religious man. But I think the teachings and lessons that can be brought from those stories are very important. “

When it came to pointing out his passions and the figures that marked him, such as Akira Kurosawa and Luis Buñuel, he stopped at the different ways in which Jorge Luis Borges’ work crossed him throughout his life: “I began to read him in the 60s, and I come back to him again and again. His literary genius is central to modern literature. I feel like I’m not smart enough for Borges, that’s why I keep trying to figure it out: layers and new ways of interpreting his stories are always found. One of the most interesting concepts is the one that says that Borges ‘invented the Internet’. He undoubtedly anticipated that universally available knowledge was to be produced and that eventually everything would be a hall of mirrors where a path to a higher truth would open up. I must confess that I prefer the tales that talk about knives and razor fights in bars, but their more personal explorations are actually very emotional. Not only is he an honor for his country, but he is a global figure, a gift for all of us.”

Of course, in addition to answering questions from the audience, in the talk he spoke about his most prominent films, his work with action heroes such as Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger, among many others, his passion for the western, his recent and future projects, and several other topics, always with his deep voice, his winning smile and an evident comfortableness: a true master class, which can be accessed with this link in the original language or down here,  with simultaneous translation into Spanish.