DOASKDOTELL MOVIE REVIEW of Amores Perros, 21 Grams, Babel, The Burning Plain, The Edge of Heaven

 

Title:  Amores Perros (“Love Is a Bitch”)

Release Date:  2000

Nationality and Language: Mexico, Spanish

Running time: 153 min

MPAA Rating: R

Distributor and Production Company: LionsGate

Director; Writer: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu

Producer:

Cast: Emilio Echeverria  

Technical: Full 2:3 to 1

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Amores Perros (“Love’s a Bitch”), the film from Mexico directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (the best known star is Emilio Echeverria), appeared once in the festival at the Lagoon (a larger “art” theater in Minneapolis in the Landmark chain), and this gritty, 153-minute opus from AltaVista films (and Lions Gate Pictures) has provided a minor sensation, re-echoing the 1996 Miramax Pulp Fiction, with a tri-furcated and recursive plot about a miscreant teenager, vulnerable model and guerilla fighter whose lives intersect over a horrible Mexico City car wreck and involvement with dogs.  The up-close brutality (of the dog fighting and living conditions and of, say, the model’s horrific injuries leading to amputation as in Boxing Helena) is hard to take indeed.  But the ironies of the stories are wonderful, like the poor little pooch who falls down the hole to be eaten by rats.

 

This directing/writing team came back in 2003 with 21 Grams, another partitioned parable centered around a car wreck, this time a hit-run by a born-again Jack (played by Benicio De; Toro), a fatality that leads to a heart transplant for Paul Rivers (a battered Sean Penn). This time the film is in English, and replaces Mexico City with Memphis, not comporting well with rural scenes in New Mexico. The squalor is graphic, as are the jail scenes, the messy housekeeping, the on camera vomiting (twice, as Rivers rejects his heart) and even the pre-surgery chest shaving, making Penn look as smooth as a baby, maybe not proving much. The “21 Grams” refers to the weight lost by the body to the Rosicrucian soul at transition.   

 

Babel, (2006, Paramount Vantage (Paramount Classics), same director, R, 142 min, USA/Mexico/Japan, in several languages including Moroccan, Spanish, Japanese, English). This is the third film of the trilogy and certainly the grandest and most ambitious, and "political."

 

"Do not go near the Tower of Ned." That was a commandment to me in a boyhood dream, probably in an extraterrestrial scenario. Probably the Tower (or for that matter, "The Two Towers" in the Rings trilogy, or the Two WTC Towers), is more like the Tower of Babel (probably in today's Iraq, in the Shiite area). In Sunday school we learn that God was displeased with Man's demand for command of his own world by building the Tower, and burdened them with the cacophony of different languages. Inerrancy would make us believe that literally. Of course, geography gives obvious explanations. Why are Spanish and French somewhat different? The Pyrenees.

 

Like this director's other films, it is a Film in Three Parts, three interlocking stories, here in Morocco, the California/Mexico border, and Tokyo. The genesis of the story is the accidental shooting of an American tourist Susan (Cate Blanchett) on a bus by a boy taking target practice in the desert mountains Her husband (a grizzled and crackle-faced 42-year-old Brad Pitt) fights with the other bus passengers and locals to protect her. The police find out about the incident quickly, but for a long time cannot get assistance to her, while they gun down several village boys. In Japan, the man who gave the boy's father the hunting rifle is sought through the nymphomaniac deaf-mute daughter, whose behavior, even in a dentist's chair, is silly and graphic. Tokyo never looked spiffier, most of all in the disco dirty-dancing scene. The American couple's kids are home in San Diego, and their illegal alien nanny decides to take them to Mexico for a wedding, with uncle Gael Garcia Barnal driving. The connections will develop, sometimes over TV jumbotrons in Tokyo.

 

The film certainly has meaning, about a "small world," where happenstance brings us together (even more so with Google) but where cultural differences keep us apart, and where a small act can be magnified into global events in unpredictable ways. Such is the nature of speech itself.

 

The film looked slightly wider than the usual 1.85:1, and had the sharpness, detail and depth that we associate with Paramount's VistaVision process of the 50s. Colors are always natural, which in the Moroccan desert can turn almost into black and white.

 

Steven Soderbergh's Traffic makes a good comparison.

 

The Burning Plain (2009, Magnolia/2929, dir. Guillermo Arriaga, 111 min, R, Mexico) two generations of couples cope with the mystery of a tragedy. Blogger.

 

The Edge of Heaven ((“Auf der anderen Seite” – “On the Other Side” – 2007, Strand Releasing / Matchstick Factory/ NDR, dir. Fatih Akin., 122 min, R) is a segmented story connecting a young professor in Germany with an activist in Turkey, and ringed with tragedy. Blogger review.

 

 

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