Sunday, February 20, 2011

Movies: Amores Perros

Last week, I finally watched Amores Perros, the debut feature film from Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu. I had seen 21 Grams when it first came out on video and was amazed by it – taking Quentin Tarantino’s non-linear approach (not that Tarantino created this, nor am I saying Iñárritu stole this from Tarantino, just tracing my own personal viewing history) to a new extreme. I also remember catching a re-run of a Charlie Rose interview with Naomi Watts, and possibly Sean Penn and Benicio del Toro, discussing 21 Grams. Watts mentioned Amores Perros as a film she had been so impressed with that she wanted to work with Iñárritu , which was why she signed on to 21 Grams. So, I knew I had to see this movie someday.

And Amores Perros did not disappoint. This was Crash before Crash, and, for me, it was a far more emotional film. It’s been a while since I saw Crash, but I think the fact that that movie had so many actors with whom I was familiar didn’t allow me to get as into the film emotionally as I might have.

But with Amores Perros, that was not the case. Certainly, I recognized Gael García Bernal from his turn in the Motorcycle Diaries, but other than that all of these actors were brand new for me. And that, coupled with the exotic locale (coming from a boy whose lived all his life in the wilds of Maine), made this a far more resonant film for me. The stories were heart-wrenching and distinct – no Hollywood clichés here – and when I realized a third of the way in how they were all going to be connected, I was completely engrossed.

The characters were engaging and they made you feel the pain they all went through. This is a harsh film, and the sets accentuate that fact. The movie feels “lived in” and the settings accentuate, and are an extension, of the emotional realities of the characters – whether it’s the ramshackle hovel of El Chivo, lost for so many years without his family, whom he left to be a revolutionary, or the pristine yet superficial apartment Daniel and Valeria have, signifying the fragile existence of their relationship and the tenuous foundation of Valeria’s “model” good looks upon which it appears to be built, the locales are extended metaphors for these broken characters.

This is a brilliant film that I highly recommend.


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