Thursday, August 4, 2011

Amores Perros (2000)

Amores Perros AKA Love's A Bitch. This movie had such a huge effect on me as a film viewer when I first saw it, if I remember correctly it was the first modern subtitled film I ever saw, everything else being older movies on DVD but when this hit my life I started paying a little more attention to world cinema rather than just independent movies.

The debut film from Oscar nominated Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu was nominated for the best foreign language film by The Academy in 2001 and lost to Crouching Tiger in a totally undeserved defeat.

The structure for this film is three narratives brought together by a car accident. The three separate stories are different meditations on how the act of loving somebody can change your life forever and the different things we go through to be with somebody we love.

Octavio is in love with his brother's girl Susanna, Daniel leaves his family for supermodel Valeria and El Chivo has been estranged from his wife and child for 20 years. Three simple, almost every day occurrences in your standard melodrama or soap opera transformed in to something quite magical, haunting and beautiful by Inarritu. Anna over at Split Reel compared this filmic debut to Citizen Kane in terms of its sheer undoubted quality of vision and his realisation of that vision.

It has moments of intense violence, there's some graphic scenes involving illegal dog fighting, neither of which are particularly pleasant to watch. The characters are at times filled with despair, taken to their lowest ebb, but underlying all of it is the powerful presentation that for a human being, in the words of The Beatles, love is all you need to survive no matter how dark things may get or what horrors you must traverse.

The film is over ten years old now and is still one of the most astounding and impacting movies I've ever seen, it lives within you reminding you of it's beauty at random moments in your life and I'm not going to spoil it for people who have yet to see it by giving away plot details or anything like that.

It's a long film, has a powerful soundtrack and is filled with superb performances; including Gael Garcia Bernal in the role that brought him international attention. This guy makes me sick, ridiculously talented, good looking and by all accounts a really nice guy to boot. He's like the Mexican George Clooney.

So instead of rewatching Titanic spend just under three hours enjoying this wonderful film and thank your lucky stars that there are some people working in film who care more about content and exploring the truth behind the complexities of human behaviour than making stuff explode and cameras shake.

If all movies were this good there would be no war. Show me some blah below.


  1. It's been some time since I've seen the film but I have to say I was as moved by it as you were.

    I'm not sure I want to see it again real soon either because it affected me so strongly and like you I hadn't watched too many subtitled films up to that point, what if I don't feel the same way now? I don't think I could handle that truth.

    What I recall that moved me the most had to be story of El Chivo and his estranged daughter, man I was inconsolable. You've caught one of the stills that still upsets me.

    Great post on a truly great film but one small quibble. Gael Garcia Bernal the Mexican George Clooney? I'm sure the guy is super nice and all but he's always reminded me of an evil hobbit. :)

  2. Great review Toby,
    I've been meaning to see this one for ages, along with 21 Grams, as he's a director that really interests me, even though I've only seen Babel so far.
    I'll be sure to get hold of it as soon as possible, it sounds like a very intense film and something I'd enjoy.

    Also, Gael Garcia Bernal is great, I first noticed him in Motorcycle Diaries, a very good film.

  3. ibetolis - the shot of el chivo waving to his daughter? it's not just the concept of what he's doing, the framing and choice of colour really help to add to that distance between them, is it odd that he's the chracter you sympathise with the most?

    i hope you've seen bernal in other things besides this, but women just seen to be drawn to him in my experience. he has got a drowned rat quality at times hasn't he?

    jack - definitely see them both my friend. perhaps not back to back. whilst babel is possibly a much larger film and probably one showing his technical growth, his earlier work was much more powerful for me. 21 grams actually made me cry a little when i saw it at the cinema.

  4. I shall go and put this on my LOVEFiLM queue right this second....well OK let me finish my comment first.

    Seems like a brilliant film and very well sold and reviewed Toby.

    Fancy doing a guest post? a List or something?

    Let me know

  5. Thank you custard. Its a kind offer and I'll take you up on it if you don't mind. Drop me an email with some details, requirements, ideas, requests?

  6. I agree that this is a great movie. I loved it a hell of a lot the first time I saw it and am proud to own the DVD. I'm a sucker for films with multiple narrative storylines but this one really stands out from the crowd. I remember feeling ultra sad during that scene at the end where he leaves the message on the answering machine... Powerful stuff.

  7. tyler - some multiple narratives leave a lot to be desited though, too many storylines not enough plot. i found myself marvelling at the praise thrown towards crash because of the intelligent way all the narratives came together with a car crash when amores perros had been made many years before and was so much better. as was 21 grams for that matter.

  8. I loved the first and third stories, but the middle story frustrated me more than it moved me. They went to the "dog under the floor" bit a few too many times.

    After seeing this (back when it first came to video), I then rented Bernal's next two movies when they came out, Y Tu Mama Tambien and The Crime of Padre Amaro. Combine those with Amores Perros and you've got a heck of a trifecta.

  9. it's definitely a tough story to love, i'll give you that. i tend to only remember how slow it feels when she starts screaming for that little dog.

  10. Spoiler Warning for Amores Perros:

    I was more than ready to get an axe myself and chop through the floor, if it meant she would stop crying about the damn dog.