by Greg Muskewitz
Amores Perros, at a 153-minutes, contains three different storylines, and one by one takes us along for each, with little interspersions from the other two as a cross-section.The first and plenipotentiary was the story of Octavio y Susana. Both young, she (Vanessa Bauche) is the wife or girlfriend of Octavio’s (Gael García Bernal) brother (Marco Perez). The brother is scum, treats her like garbage, and is involved in small-time stick-ups, while Octavio is infatuated with Susana. They have a fling, and he starts using his rottweiler Cofi to win money from dogfights in order to save up and take Susana and her son away. The second is a far more isolated storyline. Daniel y Valeria is about a magazine bigwig (Alvaro Guerrero) who leaves his wife and kids to be with an über-gorgeous model (Goya Toledo) for whom he just bought a condo for them to share. However, when she gets in a major car accident, her whole relationship becomes disheveled (the event that fasten all the stories together). Her legs are badly injured and she’s sentenced to a wheelchair, only for gangrene to set in. Things are only worsened when her little pup Richie gets stuck below the broken floorboards. (The closing scene strikes a vivid reminder of Kieslowski’s Red, whereby the billboard of Irene Jacob’s character is flashed back to her rescue.) The third and el último, El Chivo y Maru concerns an aging revolutionary-cum-prisoner-cum-assassin (Emilio Echevarría) trying to reunite himself with his daughter who believes him to be dead. While that might be the motivation of that segment, action towards reaching the goal is put on the back-burner while El Chivo deals with the current contract, and primping himself for a hopeful meeting.
"A Hollywood audition."
All three storylines are unbalanced at least a bit, even if it is merely the differences in running times — in order, 75-minutes, 30-minutes, and 60-minutes (approximately). What Iñárritu has, is three whole movies on his hands, or at least what should be three movies. He is obviously a filmmaker with an itch, and his enthusiasm shows very visibly, but he does not yet have the capacity or depth of a filmmaker of the caliber he is trying to imitate. The story was written by Guillermo Arriaga, and of his three intersecting storylines, the first is the most captivating, attention-craving, and developed. Had this been stretched out only a little more — something that wouldn’t have been too hard with all that was available to the filmmakers, it would have made a mostly solid movie all on its own. The third story, for me, was the most interesting, the most unique, and in the end, the most short-changed. The middle diversion is the most isolated, least compelling, and stood out most as a sore thumb compared to the rest. Iñárritu has a high definition for visual flair, and that trait is one very common by new filmmakers. Where it is most detrimental is in the first storyline, which featured a lot more action; the camera was being tossed around, jerked and shaken up, especially in the opening scene that was out of context, and later viewed in its proper groove. The colors are all deeply saturated (shot by Rodrigo Prieto) and grainy (in the present sense of many digital video movies), presenting somewhat of a hard-edged look. Iñárritu is definitely perpetuating a certain estilo, and the concept of linkage in the stories is not unusual. He shows a preference to the first storyline, investing the most active interest and time into it, and it really shows. From the time that the second has started and ended, it is nowhere near matching or even catching up to the energy of the first. Probably the most assured thing about Amores Perros is that this is not the first and only time we will see the name of Alejandro González Iñárritu. The critical reaction, the viewership reaction, the noise and buzz to all of this have been more than enough to garner him additional attention in the future. Now whether he decides to stay with his native Mexico like or Arturo Ripstein has done, or like France’s Agnès Jaoui plans to do — or whether he will cross over to Hollywood like Ang Lee (to a point, but still tied in to Taiwan), Luc Besson, Wayne Wang, Shekhar Kapur, and so many others have done, is the real question.
(Note: The choice of all-white subtitles against such a saturated, and often bleached-white image was not a good one. Some difficulty trying to read them will ensue.)[Redeemable.]
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=4941&reviewer=172
originally posted: 04/23/01 13:41:55