IMDB #161 Amores Perros

There are composite films like previously covered Crash and Magnolia, that weave many storylines together, and there are anthology films like Paris, Je T'aime and Coffe & Cigarettes which present separate short films, one after another.

Somewhere in between you have what I like to call "Tarantino films," which are organized into distinct chapters that may overlap significantly. Today's entry is structured in such a way.

The pertinent question, though- is it ever necessary? Let's see how we feel after Amores Perros, part one of Alejandro González Iñárritu's mission to DEPRESS THE ENTIRE WORLD.

The Key Players:

Our director, whom I'll simply refer to as AGI frow now on for accent/tilde related reasons, has since completed his "Death trilogy" with the similar in tone 21 Grams and Babel, about miserable things happening to miserable people. Word is that this year's Javier Bardem starring Biutiful will be an awards contender as well.

Screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga spent three years writing Amores Perros, and went on to collaborate with AGI until a bitter falling out about writing credits drove them apart. He made his directorial debut with The Burning Plain, yet another morose composite film that was received with a shrug.

A large ensemble cast boasts on Gael García Bernal (Y tu mamá también, Blindness) as the only future luminary amoung many other recurring AGI players like Adriana Barraza.

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The Story:

The film is divided into three chapters, though the other two plotlines are briefly touched upon in each one.

1. Octavio and Susana- García Bernal plays Octavio, a man smitten with his hoodlum older brother's young wife, and takes to dogfighting to make the money to run away with her. His family dog Cofi, turns out to have a knack for it, and goes undefeated as Octavio and his friend Jorge make plenty of cash- naturally this angers a local thug whose dogs keep losing, leading to a violent confrontation that ends in a car crash. Plus Susana takes the money Octavio was keeping to run away and takes off with the asshole brother instead, after Octavio has him beaten up. Aw.

2. Daniel and Valeria- Valeria, a preeminent supermodel, is gravely injured by said car crash, which leads to tension in her budding relationship with Daniel, a magazine executive who's just left his wife to be with her. When her dog (do you sense a theme?) disappears under the floorboards of their new apartment, tension escalates between them violently the longer they can't get him out.

3. El Chivo and Maru- An ex-revolutionary turned hobo hitman has taken in an injured Cofi after witnessing the car crash, and nurses the poor dog back to health- this only to come home one day to find that the newly-minted fighting champion has killed all of the other mutts that he lovingly takes care of. This seems to cause a shift in his perception of senseless killing, and how he handles his latest job to kill a man's business partner.

The Artistry:

Wikipedia informs me that Amores Perros is sometimes referred to as the "Mexican Pulp Fiction," and structurally I can see why. There's even plenty of crime, but there's virtually no humor, and no one to root for.

García Bernal carries a little bit of magnetism in the first chapter, but it's not enough to get past the abhorrent nature of dogfighting in the first place- certainly by the time he has his brother violently beaten (instead of just sleeping with his wife and then running away with her) we don't really care that he's about to get in a terrible car accident (which is actually the first scene of the film).

I'm not sure what's added to the film by making it almost a straight chapter-by-chapter anthology but teasing us with scenes of Daniel and El Chivo during the first third. The paths of the characters do intersect, but we also see El Chivo kill a man in a restaurant very early, and then we have to wait until the final chapter to find out why. It's kind of maddening, especially during the second chapter.

"Daniel y Valeria" itself feels like the beginning of a horror movie or psychological thriller edited into a different film- the blissful new freedom of the couple (as she had been a secret mistress for quite some time) is immediately marred by the car crash, and then a creeping dread sets in the moment the little dog goes under the floor. Valeria is too suddenly introduced to care for, and the earlier glimpses of Daniel being awkward around his wife (but no scene of him leaving her?) add nothing. By the time she re-injures her leg trying to get the dog out, requiring it to be amputated, the whole plot just seems terribly mean-spirited.

The final third is the best, largely due to Emilio Echevarría's performance as El Chivo, quietly dealing with the most important, or at least cinematic life events. Cofi killing all of his dogs is the best moment wrought from the screenplay myriad crossed-paths, and the scene where he can't kill Cofi in turn is the most moving.

But his attempt to reconnect with daughter, while well-played, is just another of the film's thin parables without the time to have an impact.

Amores Perros has a lot to say, and two and a half hours to say it, but I didn't really end up with anything to speak of by the end, especially not watching it for the second time for this review. There's a big difference between illuminating class differences and simply having characters from different classes, and an even bigger one between a philosophical edge and superficial grittiness.


Let's see. Octavio's brother gets killed, but Susana can't even stomach the thought of being with him (also his friend Jorge was killed in the car crash while Octavio was banged up pretty badly). Valeria as mentioned loses her leg, her billboards taken down and her career over. El Chivo ties up his target and the target's half-brother that wanted him killed, and puts a gun on the floor between them and tells them to sort it out themselves. He takes the money, leaves it for his daughter with a tearful message on her answering machine, cuts his hair and walks off into the sunset with his new dog.


Overall: Should It Be Higher, Lower?

Lower. And since they're not on the countdown, I wasn't into 21 Grams or Babel very much either, though I found the former focused enough to be more meaningful.

These films that focus on misery, cutting from various tales of woe as if that illustrated some sort of connection, what are they trying to say? If the message is just "life's a bitch" (or Love, as the case may be), you can spare me the time and the ticket price.

The Legacy:

It did launch AGI as a Hollywood talent, culminating with Babel nearly stealing Best Picture from The Departed in 2004 (this was my fear, anyway). Amores Perros would lose the Oscar but win the BAFTA for Foreign Language.

The Best Video Of It On YouTube:

Ugh. Do I have to? Here, watch an hilarious fan-made version of the trailer instead:

Leftover Thoughts:

-The title doesn't literally translate to "Love's a Bitch," nor does AGI find that to be adequate. See here for various possibilities.

-Again, did Amores Perros have something to say about police corruption, or did it merely just include one corrupt cop?

-As pointless miseryfests go, it's still way, way better than Crash

Coming Up...

160. The Graduate

159. Groundhog Day

158. The Bourne Ultimatum

2 Response to "IMDB #161 Amores Perros"

  1. Cody-B says:

    Someone once interpreted the movie to be about dogs and how much they change our lives. In the first chapter, it got that guy into terrible trouble with gangs, made him betray his brother etc... In the second, that dog nearly ruined the actresses relationship and caused her to lose her leg. In the third, well, broseph lost all his pups and gave up his unexplained and unbelievable assassin lifestyle. I do agree that this movie is way to bleak to be entertaining, but I enjoyed it. i hated Babel and parts of 21 grams, but the acting in 21 grams was top notch.

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