Amorres Perros review

:. Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu
:. Starring: Emilio Echevarría, Gael García Bernal
:. Running Time: 2:34
:. Year: 2000
:. Country: Mexico


Taking place in Mexico City, Amores Perros ("Love's a Bitch") is Mexican director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's first film. In a metropolis where 21 million people share urban space with roughly one million homeless dogs, it's inevitable for the two to meet. Amores Perros is about relationships: whether between people and dogs, lovers, brothers, family members, economic or political. A brutal car crash intertwines the stories of three sets of people and their dogs, all trying to survive their own solitude. In the end, acts of kindness and acts of brutality can both have unexpected consequences.

The film is divided into three chapters. In the gritty "Octavio and Susana" we meet a young man (Gael García Bernal) in love with his thug brother's wife (Vanessa Bauche). In order to finance their escape and subsequent new life together, Octavio takes his rottweiler Cofi to dogfights where he earns money on bets. In a more superficial "Daniel and Valeria" we find a man (Alvaro Guerrero) who's left his wife and children to live with a Spanish supermodel (Goya Toledo), the face and body behind the "Enchant" perfume campaign. Life becomes less enchanting for him once a car accident leaves her with an amputated leg and her beloved poodle ends up under the floorboards. The story of "El Chivo and Maru" is the most poignant. El Chivo (played with a heart-wrenching stoicism by Emilio Echevarria) is a tramp who lives with a bunch of wild dogs and earns money by carrying out hits for a crooked policeman. We learn that he abandoned his wife and child to become a guerrilla, and after spending twenty years in prison tries to reconnect with his daughter Maru, who believes him to be dead.

This film has inaccurately been compared to Pulp Fiction due to its violence and a car crash that unites three distinct stories. However, it's not really an apt comparison. For one, the violence plays a much different role here. In Pulp Fiction, there was an underlying sarcasm that winked at the audience to see if we got the joke, while in Amores Perros, the violence is up close, painful and far from entertaining. It hurts and has horrible consequences. Ironically, the film states that no dogs were harmed in the film, while the violence against human beings needs no explanation. El Chivo demonstrates the duality—in one scene while reading the paper he scribbles over the picture of a man he's just killed and then weeps upon finding his former wife has died a few pages later. When he save Cofi from the car wreck and nurses him back to health only to find the dog has savagely and instinctively killed his pack of dogs, the realization that violence affects someone, somewhere becomes more real.

Economics and social status also plays a big part in this film. There are two "Cain and Abel" stories in this film. Octavio and Ramiro despise each other, but they are also trying to get out of their social position. Ramiro robs convenience stores at night and works as a cashier during the day. To see him behind the cash register, smiling and subservient, makes his rage all the more palpable. Octavio takes Cofi to the dog fighting world to raise money, and has no problem wreaking revenge once he's able. Octavio is more likable, but not any cleaner than his brother. In a subplot to El Chivo's chapter, an upper class man orders a hit on his half brother and finds that paying El Chivo to do the dirty work does not absolve him of his sin. In fact, El Chivo relishes humiliating them both, and selling their fancy cars for cash. As for Valeria and Daniel, at first we see what must be a middle aged man's fantasy, living with a model in a big new place. After Valeria's accident, the model has lost her means of support, and we see that Daniel really can't afford to live the lifestyle he's chosen. And this large modern apartment is actually filled with rats under the floorboards, attesting to a certain deterioration of the so-called "upper" class.

Both the universal and uniquely Mexican elements of Amores Perros make for a lot to tackle. On one hand, this film could be filmed anywhere—the economic struggle is just as visible in Los Angeles or Sao Paulo. On the other hand, there are very "Mexican" themes in the film. Even for Spanish speakers, penetrating the film is not easy given the slang used. There are references to police corruption and to the Zapatista's, as well as ideological struggles from the past. The idea of Octavio Paz's "Labyrinth of solitude" comes to mind in that rage and solitude are very much a part of the film. That's not to say the rest of the world has none of these attributes, but a native of Mexico City would have a totally different view on certain events than a North American. While the affair between the model and the married man could happen anywhere, that she's a blond Spanish model who's made it big in Mexico and is suddenly literally smashed into the city is no small coincidence. Again, this film is not a parable for colonial legacies; despite divisions it shows a modern world we're not comfortable with. In El Chivo's story we see a character that manages to maintain dignity even as he walks off into a desolate landscape.

The acting is very good. Emilio Echevarria's El Chivo won't be forgotten anytime soon and the rest of the cast works well together. Combined with a powerful script and excellent direction, for a first film the result is impressive. Maybe the comparison to Pulp Fiction is not totally misguided: a new type of film has entered cinematic history and current dialogue.

At one point, Susana tells Octavio, "If you want God to laugh tell him about your plans". Amores Perros is about living with decisions made despite what fate has in store, and finding absurd humor in even the blackest of moments. Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu has crafted a haunting film whose images won't go away anytime soon.

  Anji Milanovic

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