Perros" (which roughly translates as 'Love's a bitch') was the feature
debut of Mexican director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, who later went Hollywood
with the gritty gloom of "21 Grams". The film has earned a great deal
of praise from critics around the world, as well as picking up awards at
numerous festivals, most notably Cannes and Venice, and was also nominated in
the 'Best Foreign Film' category at the Oscars. A gritty urban drama that is
essentially a collection of three stories with interwoven plots, "Amores
Perros" has won some obvious comparisons with Tarantino's "Pulp
Fiction", though Inarritu's film is a far more emotional tale, and is told
in a style which though technically accomplished and visually rich, is less
dependent upon flashy gimmickry and narrative tricks.
"Amores Perros" features a genuine
attempt to explore the darker side of the human condition, primarily
through the effective use of dogs as metaphors for the animalistic
behaviour in man which so often leads to tragedy and violence. The
result is an excellent, heartfelt and moving film which, although at
times drenched with blood and shocking cruelty, never loses sight of its
realistic characters or its painfully human core.
The plot begins with a tragic car accident in
Mexico City, and proceeds to follow its effects on the lives of three
people. The first is Octavio (Gael García, recently in "The
Motorcycle Diaries"), a teenager who turns to dog fighting in order
to raise the money needed to rescue his brother's wife from her abusive
marriage. The second tale is a darkly comic affair which involves
Valeria (Goya Toledo, also in the serial killer thriller "Killing
Words"), a Spanish model and one of the actual victims of the
accident, whose dog disappears under the floorboards of her new flat.
She desperately searches for the poor creature, whose pitiful howls
haunt her every move, while her relationship with her married lover
gradually falls apart. The final tale is that of El Chivo (played by
Emilio Echevarria, recently in "The
Alamo"), an aging assassin and former political revolutionary
who lives a spartan life on the streets, content to survive on whatever
fate throws his way.
Inarritu handles the three-part structure
effectively and efficiently, allowing the narratives to overlap whilst
never letting things become unrealistically convoluted. This works well,
enabling the director to include three tales which, though thematically
and narratively linked, are quite different in terms of mood and style.
The film as a whole is complex, with a number of chronological leaps
that never falls into confusion or the overbearing sense of
self-importance that frequently afflicts debut filmmakers.
All three tales are very well written, with rich,
sympathetic characters and some well observed details and philosophical
musings on the nature of humanity. Of course, since the film is
concerned with the more unpleasant aspects of life, it does quite
frequently make for depressing viewing, though thankfully it is
elegantly so and with an air of honesty, since Inarritu never settles
for gratuitous angst or emotional cheap shots. The film also has a sharp
intellectual edge, especially during the final section, in which
political and social criticism come to the fore.
an excellent director, and as well as managing to keep the film moving
briskly throughout its considerable length, he includes some striking
images and scenes of incredible, yet unobtrusive beauty. He makes full
use of the urban setting, highlighting the differences between the
living conditions of the rich, poor and homeless as an ironic
counterpart to the similarities in their behaviour. The action scenes
are very well handled, being short and brutal rather than drawn out, and
are inserted into the plot at unexpected intervals, giving an
uncomfortable and tense atmosphere which leaves the viewer in no doubt
that violence could strike at any moment.
"Amores Perros" is a brutal film, especially
in its initial scenes of dog fighting, which are intense and disturbing.
There are a number of other bloody scenes in the film, including a few
shoot-outs, though none are gratuitous or feel out of place. Inarritu
uses violence sparingly yet forcefully, underlining the viciousness of
human nature rather than simply reveling in its effects and
consequences. This is a remarkably mature approach for an emerging
filmmaker, and one which serves him well, lending "Amores
Perros" a thoughtful, realistic air and ensuing that it engages on
a number of levels.