#37 Amores Perros
(2000, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu)
“You and that fucking dog!”
Amores Perros is three films for the price of one, all vaguely linked on three things. First, is a car crash that takes place during the middle of the film’s timeline, bringing the main characters of the three stories together into one place. The second is the theme of how love and relationships aren’t always beautiful and perfect. This explains the title, which translates to “love’s a bitch”. But the third theme, which makes the title a rather interesting pun, is the theme of cruelty to dogs. It’s an odd combination, but does any of this work particularly well?
The first of the three stories here is about Octavio, a young man whose brother is a violent criminal. Octavio recognises how much his brother abuses his teenage wife Susana, and is determined to take her away from him, due to his own interest in her. To raise the money to do this, he enters his brother’s dog into local dogfights, and slowly saves up the bet money this generates.
The second story is about Valeria, a vain supermodel who’s just received a contract with a major perfume manufacturer to appear in their ads. Then she gets involved in the story-linking car crash, leaving her crippled and stuck in a wheelchair. Shortly after this, her lapdog gets trapped under the floorboards of her apartment and is unable to help it due to her condition. This leads her to start taking her frustrations out on her new husband.
The third and final story concerns an aging hit-man, living out in the slums, and the conflicts he faces between his profession, his squalid lifestyle and wanting to reconcile with his estranged daughter.
The problem is, these three stories never seem to truly fit together as one big cohesive whole. They’re linked in some small ways, but generally they feel very separate, and as a result, it feels like three movies all crammed into 2 and a half hours and not been given the time they really deserve to develop. While technically much of the film does work and there are signs that the director cared about his work to a significant degree, the film just doesn’t hold together too well.
Part of this issue lies in how the three stories are structured. For the most part, we have each separate story told in its own segment, as if this were an anthology movie of some sort. However, where things go wrong is when little scenes from the other stories leak into what’s going on. Throughout the initial dogfight story, scenes involving the supermodel’s husband and the hitman both feature, but neither are given much context. They disrupt the flow of the first story, and the information told within these scenes gets lost before it’s needed later. This is especially obvious in the hitman’s story, where many subtle scenes necessary to understanding his character are buried within an entirely different story.
This kind of storytelling is fine, but it needs to be consistent. Either tell the three stories separately, allowing the audience to absorb all the information of one story and then spot the connections as they pop up, or constantly switch between the stories as the movie progresses, allowing viewers to piece everything together as they go along. As it stands, the few unrelated scenes distract from proceedings and make the film as a whole much harder to understand.
The individual stories themselves are fine though. The first is a harrowing tale of deceit and trying to escape a life of living on the breadline. The second is fantastic, and presents a woman who cares more about her own image and her lapdog than she does her husband, all with terrible consequences. The third story, however, is a little unfocused and confused. It never really balances his torment over his profession with his sense of loss for his family, and just feels a bit meandering.
Overall, Amores Perros is a good experiment, but is flawed. There is some good storytelling and some superb acting here, but it never really holds together as a single movie. A few more connections here and there would have improved things.
Starring Gael Garcia Bernal, Goya Toledo, Emilio Echevarria, Vanessa Bauche, Marco Perez & Alvaro Guerrero
Written by Guillermo Arriaga
Produced by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
Music by Gustavo Santaolalla
Cinematography by Rodrigo Prieto
Edited by Luis Carballar, Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu & Fernando Perez Unda
Favourite Scene: The breakdown of Valeria and Daniel’s relationship was chillingly effective, and easily the best part of the whole movie
Scene That Bugged Me: So tell me, why is the hit man moving into torture?
Watch it if: You’re here for that middle story
Avoid it if: You don’t like seeing dogs suffer
Originally posted on Blogspot Saturday 7 January 2012