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Thursday, August 04, 2011

A bit about Biutiful

David Ignatius in W.Post about Biutiful (the movie made in 2010 by Alejandro González Iñárritu, featuring Javier Bardem):

It’s a story that might not sound appealing, about a father in Barcelona who realizes that he’s dying of cancer and wonders what to do with his children. But it’s so beautifully imagined and filmed that it achieves the kind of poignant universality that people once associated with classic American films such as It’s a Wonderful Life or On the Waterfront. All of Iñárritu’s movies examine the suffering and joy of the migrant workers who are in constant motion in our globalized world. Remember his film Babel, with Brad Pitt, which wove together plot details from Morocco, Japan and the Mexican-American border. In Biutiful, the dispossessed are African and Chinese migrants who live in constant fear but never lose their dignity. This Mexican director reaches to capture the big themes of 21st-century life in a way that most American directors don’t even attempt.

And here's another comment, coming from an IMDB reviewer, Dharmendra Singh:

Not everyone in the gutter is looking up at the stars. For Uxbal (Javier Bardem), that's folly he can't afford to entertain. His priority is to make enough money to ensure his wife and two kids can eat – that and tying up a few matters of honour before prostate cancer permanently settles all debts for him. We're not told how Uxbal came to be in his pitiful state – he sustains a number of illegal rackets, including human trafficking, with several of Barcelona's immigrant communities – but we have clues. His father died when he was young; he had a benighted upbringing (believing he is clairvoyant); and the mother of his kids suffers from bipolar disorder (the difficulties of which are superbly examined). I'm not sure whether director Alejandro González Iñárritu (Babel, 21 Grams, Amores Perros) was aiming for a political film, but that's how I read it. His film looks uncompromisingly at Spain's immigration situation. When I visited Madrid recently, I went all over, yet I did not see the large immigrant population I had read about. It struck me: they must be underground. Ditto Barcelona. We're shown a sad but believable portrait of how, when immigrant communities assimilate into a country that needs their work but not their permanence, they have to do whatever they can to survive. They look after each other – who else will? – and form a sub-community. Filming is largely hand-held, which frenetically and viscerally conveys the confusion and urgency under which Uxbal lives his vastly diminishing life. I don't recall the camera ever being far away; action is shoved in our faces, so that we are forced to live vicariously alongside Uxbal. For my money Javier Bardem is one of the best actors working today. Not only remarkably handsome, he brings a menacing intensity to his roles. Career highlights include Live Flesh, Before Night Falls and The Sea Inside. In 2007 he hooked up with the incomparable Coen Brothers to star in their masterwork No Country for Old Men (my DVD recommendation), in which he plays a sociopathic villain – destined to become one of the best ever personifications of evil, if it isn't already. This is a long film (2 ½ hours) and feels it. But there's a lot happening, and many characters are developed. It's daring filmmaking, unpleasant in parts – depressing too. But then, the best art often is.

I haven't watched the movie, yet. Anyway, Iñárritu is on my short list of great directors (while my empathy goes to the Asian filmmakers, but that's of course subjective) and Javier Bardem is one of the best, so total in each of his roles. I'll come back after I watch Biutiful.



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