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Mexico 2000
Directed by
Alejandro Gonzalez Innarritu
154 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4.5 stars

Amores Perros

Synopsis: In a serious car accident in the middle of Mexico City, three lives (and their connections) collide. Octavio wants to run away with his brother's wife, Susana. Daniel is a married man with a family who falls in love with a beautiful model, Valeria, and it is on the day he moves in with her that Valeria is involved in the car accident. El Chivo is one of the pedestrians on the spot at the time of the crash.

It is remarkable how many very good films are debut features. Undoubtedly they represent the concentration and crystallisation of many years of the director's creative energy and personal vision. Amores Perros is such a film. Although as whole not entirely successful, it is so bristling with energy and ideas as to be truly remarkable. It is comparable in some ways with another current release Traffic for its interweaving plot lines, contrast of high and low society, and hip cinematographic stylistics. But whilst it lacks the sophistication of that film, Amores Perros gains from a powerful emotional connection with its core concerns. And these can be summed up, undoubtedly reductively (my apologies to writer Guillermo Arriaga Jordán), as "eat the rich".

Divided into three divergent but interconnected, stories, the first part, the story of Octavio's love for his brother's wife, bears the greatest burden of emotional intensity. Brilliantly filmed both in terms of photography, mise-en-scène and underpinned by a pulsating soundtrack, it is a stunning portrayal of the life of Mexico City's urban poor, or at least one particular family, wracked by fantasies of wealth but with no way to attain them except by crime, and doomed to destruction by their desperation. The film then segues to a story, which some will find slightly jarring - an almost Almodóvar-esque story of a married fashion magazine publisher and his affair with a beautiful model. Satirical, whimsical, yet at the same time seeming heavy-handed, it both amounts to little and yet achieves a poignancy. Finally, comes a story whose style is somewhat reminiscent of fellow Mexican director, Alejandro Jodorowsky - a tale of an outsider, a mythic gun-toting rebel and paid assassin, stalking the effete princelings of corporate wealth. The tension ramps up and the tone becomes more apocalyptic.

To get through all this takes some two and a half hours, most of which (bar moments in the second section) fly by. Aside from a canine thread (you have to see it to appreciate the meaning of this) what unites the stories is, on an immediate level a preoccupation with the divide between rich and poor, upper and lower, socially sanctioned and socially outcast, and on a deeper level, with what Susana (Vanessas Bauchel) tells Octavio (Gael Garcia Bernal) in the first story: "If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans" (or by the title, which in English translates as "Love's a bitch"). Both these two actors in particular and Emilio Echevarria, who plays El Chivo in the third story, stand out for their characterisations.

That this film made it to a nomination at this year's Oscars as Best Foreign Language Film says something about its quality. That it was beaten by Ang Lee's polished, but bland crowd-pleaser, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon only says something about the Academy's demographic. It has, however, desrvedly won a swag of awards at film festivals around the world.

 

 

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