Director Lila Avilés talks Dazed through her film, the latest in their Women’s Tales series
“It was a super amazing process, because, as a cinema director, the keyword you always want to hear is ‘Freedom’.” Lila Avilés, the Mexican director responsible for Eye Two Times Mouth, the 25th film in Miu Miu’s ongoing Women’s Tales series, is talking about making her film for the storied yet playful Italian brand. On Wednesday, Miu Miu held a day of screenings at the Curzon Mayfair, with accompanying talks at 5 Hertford Street, the gloriously ornate members’ club across the road. It was a veritable mini film festival, a celebration of the series, which invites today’s most original female directors to investigate femininity in the 21st century. The day culminated with the premiere of Eye Two Times Mouth at Curzon Mayfair followed by a dinner where musician Beabadoobee, actor Bel Powley and Heartstopper star Yasmin Finney made appearances. “The invitation from Miu Miu to make the film was beautiful, really because of this freedom… they respected my style and way of thinking,” says Avilés.
The director, who represented Mexico at the Academy Awards for her film The Chambermaid, was in great company. Ahead of the evening’s premiere, Miu Miu screened some of their previous Women’s Tales, accompanied by intimate talks. Director Isabel Sandoval discussed Protagonists: Off-Screen, On Screen and Behind the Scenes with actors Samantha Morton and Dolly De Leon; Susie Bubble talked about Cinematic Portraits: Carte Blanche, Identity and The Female Gaze with directors Janicza Bravo and Sally El Hosaini, followed by a poetry performance by Kai-Isaiah Jamal; and Malgorzata Szumowska and Rina Yang discussed Frontiers: What It Means to Be an Artist in an Age of Content with Fiona Lamptey, who is director of UK features at Netflix. The audience too was packed with directors, including Rhea Dillon, Andy Picci, India Harris, Tash Tung, and Renee Maria Osubu, as well as industry figures such as Camille Charriere, Bee Beardsworth and Caleb Frempong. The talks were in turn illuminating and riotous, as the collected speakers held out on their favourite topic: navigating the world of cinema.
As it happens, Avilés’ film also follows a woman finding her way in the arts. Luz, played by Akemi Endo, is a young opera singer auditioning for the titular role in Madame Butterfly, in between working as a docent in a modern art gallery in Mexico City. We see her sing with her professor, learn classical Japanese hand movements with an instructor, and practice, over and over again, for her defining role, set to the deeply emotive soundtrack of the opera. “Music has that mystery and power that I wanted,” says Avilés. “To be an opera singer, you need to be a virtuoso – study a lot, learn about languages, understand both words and music. For me, that was an interesting world to explore.”
As part of her teachings, Luz learns about sacred geometries – your mouth is twice the size of your eye, giving the film its name – and suddenly sees them everywhere as she undergoes her transformation from watchful young woman to opera star. “I started my journey in opera a long time ago, as I come from a theatre background and was an assistant director,” Avilés says. “In fact, the first opera I worked on was Madama Butterfly. And I was wounded in my heart, just like that. It’s so powerful and awe-inspiring. When you’re in the theatre and they start to sing, what you feel isn’t rational.” Luz emerges, resplendent, in a Miu Miu costume as Madama Butterfly.
When Avilés confesses that when watches her films, she can’t sit at the front of the cinema – she’d rather be sat in the inky darkness at the back and watch the audience. “‘I’m very playful, and I like a lot of process. When you’re in the process of making cinema, or theatre, or dance, you’re not alone. And the bigger your production, the more people you work with – it’s collective.” With the premiere, she became part of the greater collective of directors who have been part of Miu Miu Women’s Tales. “It’s a lot of directors from a lot of countries. I checked out almost all of their short films, and what I love is you get a small taste of who they are, what it’s like where they’re from. Now I can do the same. There are a lot of clichés about Mexico. Just like there are clichés about being a woman. Being Mexican is like being a woman – it’s not just one thing. There’s diversity and layers. And in this film, I got to show that and mix art forms and cultures, and show Mexico and women in my own way.” Avilés laughs, saying her next film too will be about navigating girlhood and the world. “I want to make films in a lot of places! I want to understand the layers in other places too.”
Eye Two Times Mouth is available to stream on Miu Miu’s channels and MUBI globally.