Biutiful

9 06 2011

I have a fascination with the films of Alejandro González Iñárritu, though I don’t uncategorically praise all of them. In fact, I think his films have been going downhill since his first film, Amores Perros, in 2000. I still consider his first to be his best film, with 21 Grams (2003) and Babel (2006) being of far inferior quality in my opinion. 21 Grams, another story about how an accident changes the lives of people, is at least watchable. Babel is, for lack of a better way of putting it, a preposterous movie, one that collapsed under the weight of its own ambition. The most elementary critique that one could make of Babel is that human beings in real life would never act that way. A couple would never just up and leave their two kids with their undocumented nanny for an unforeseen amount of time. Such undocumented nanny would not risk crossing the border back into Mexico expecting that she could just waltz back over the border with two gringo kids in tow. In my opinion, Babel was a sprawling mess weighed down by its own pretension. I found the movie to be barely watchable.

Thankfully, González Iñárritu’s trajectory as a filmmaker has swung a bit upward with his newest film, Biutiful (2010). Here the Mexican director and producer abandons the many interlocking stories technique to just focus on one story: that of a dying man trying to do the right thing, only to be frustrated by the hands of fate at every turn. As in the other films, there are no satisfying endings, no conclusions that make one unambiguously empathetic with any one character. And, as in Amores Perros and Babel, one of the real stars of the show is the neo-liberal capitalist social order itself: one in which society seems to be falling apart, and it is every man for himself. Even within these situations, González Iñárritu’s films show people trying to search for very traditional things (love, justice, redemption), even in their own distorted and frustrated ways.
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