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Amores Perros

Review Written by: William Grady
Film: A+
Video/Audio/Extras: B/C/B-

Directed by: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
Written by: Guillermo Arriaga
Produced by: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
Starring: Gael Garcia Bernal, Emilio Echevarria, Goya Toledo, Alvaro Guerrero
Buy it!, Buy it, rent it or skip it: Buy it

The film begins at a panicky, insanely fast paced scene where two men screaming at each other race their car through the streets of Mexico City, a heavily bleeding dog in the back seat. They are being chased by another car, whose drivers are shooting at them. A second later they crash into another car and everything stops quite abruptly. The very same car crash will be shown to us three more times, one for each of three stories that intersect in the very same crash. The stories all involve such completely different characters and stories it's hard to belive they are in the same movie. But they are and all share similar elements. The film's title, translated to English, means "Love's a Bitch" and bad pun aside, it fits quite well. All three stories are about love and about dogs.

It was the debut of then unknown Gael Garcia Bernal, who was launched to stardom after his portrayal of Octavio (Gael Garcia Bernal), an unemployed man living with his brother (Marco Perez) and sister-in-law, Susana (Vanessa Bauche). It happens that Octavio has an obsessive crush on Susana, who he wants to run away with. He tries to convince her but she is unwilling, despite the fact Ramiro is an abusive, disloyal thug. He decides to enter his dog Cofi into the world of dogfighting to earn money to convince Susana. Also on hand is Octavio and Ramiro's mother (Adriana Barazza, who returned with Bernal to Innaritu's Babel and gave an incredible performance) who sides with Ramiro on everything and gives Susana a hard time.

In the more upper class neighborhood, Daniel (Alvaro Guerrero) leaves his wife and children to live with a beautiful supermodel Valeria (Goya Toledo) in an apartment with a view of a billboard featuring her in an advertisement. That day she is in a car crash, which leaves her crippled. She loses her job as a model. Daniel suddenly finds himself forced to love her for something other than her beauty. Valeria's dog jumps into a hole in the floorboards and disappears. Although she can hear him at night under the floor, they cannot find him. The billboard outside suddenly becomes a cruel reminder of what she has lost and every time the camera makes us watch it seems unbearable.

El Chivo, whose story is told to suggest peeling an onion, is a hobo who takes care of dogs and watches the same woman from a distance for long periods of time. We see him shoot a buisnessman in what appears to be a planned assasination. His story is the most amazing and provides the most closure. The scene where he discovers his dogs lying in his apartment is so horrifying it's unbearable. Very few films have made me cry, but it's nearly impossible to get through that scene, much less the entire movie, without shedding a tear or two.

Alexandro Gonzales Innaritu made this movie as the beginning of a trilogy of films, the latter two being 21 Grams and Babel. But he won't do better than Amores Perros, probably not in his entire career. Not too many films have captured the very essence of a city so perfectly. Playing three different moods and styles for his three different stories, Innaritu's film reaches a sort of emotional grace, the ultimate human honesty. These characters aren't just real. They're our friends, neighbors, relatives. You know where I'm going. They might just be us.

In three stories, acts done in the name of love and all seem to fail, resulting in tragedy. The dog's are metaphors too and if you're wondering what they are metaphors for you don't have to go farther from the title. Love's a bitch. The bitches are love. The title's still a bad pun though.

The film is presented in 16:9 aspect ratio. The picture quality is fine and any graininess or "gritty" look is a deliberate choice by director Innaritu for the feel of his film. The sound is probably the worst part of the film. More the filmmaker's fault than the DVD's - the gun shots are oddly muted, the sound as a whole doesn't flow together very well. Luckily it does not impact the film.

Commentary by director Innaritu and writer Arriaga is interesting, but only for selected scenes. Innaritu also has a commentary for his deleted scenes, which is helpful. There are many deleted scenes that give more backround to the characters, but we can understand why Innaritu chose to take them out. As a whole, they would have dulled the emotional impact. There are also three music videos, not one of them particularily good, although one features some excellent visual choreography where a camera circles around the walls of a room and sees new people each time.

There are "three" featurettes. I put three in quotes because the third is just the last part of the second about filming the car crash scene. It appears to have been added to make it seem as if the DVD had more extras. The first one, "The Dogs of Amores Perros" is an awkwardly scored piece on how they filmed the dog fight scenes without hurting any of the dogs. There are some interesting facts in there but not enough to sustain one's attention for the whole featurette. The second is about the making of the movie and provides very little footage of the actual filming besides the final "car crash" sequence which is fascinating. Mostly we see a lot of Innaritu and the actors discussing the nature of the film and what it's about. A few interesting points are made by Innaritu, like how he says the characters are all defined by the pictures they keep. Emilio Eschevarria is always an interesting actor to listen to: the man is a natural storyteller.

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