Friday, November 07, 2014
Directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and written by Guillermo Ariagga, Amores Perros is a film that involves three different stories that are connected with one another that each involve dogs. The first involves a young man trying to raise money through dog-fighting in order to win over his sister-in-law while a man deals with the repercussions of leaving his family for a model. The third and final story involve a hitman trying to reconnect with his estranged daughter as it’s set entirely in Mexico City in a world that is driven by chaos and death where people deal with the decisions they make in their life in the first of a three-part thematic trilogy relating to death. Starring Gael Garcia Bernal, Vanessa Bauche, Alvaro Guerrero, Goya Toledo, and Emilio Echevarria. Amores Perros is a gripping yet evocative film from Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu.
The film explores the lives of various people in Mexico City in its exploration of devotion, loyalty, and death. All of which is told in an anthology-film narrative style but with elements that connects one different story to another. The first involves a young man named Octavio (Gael Garcia Bernal) who has a crush on his sister-in-law Susana (Vanessa Bauche), who is embroiled in a terrible marriage to Octavio’s brother Ramiro (Marco Perez), where he tries to make money through illegal dog fights with the help of Ramiro’s Doberman Cofi. The second story involves a model named Valeria (Goya Toledo) who is having an affair with a married man in Daniel (Alvaro Guerrero) who leaves his family to be with Valeria only for the relationship to fall apart in an act of desperation from Valeria’s part. The third and final story involves a hitman named El Chivo (Emilio Echevarria) is trying to reach his estranged daughter as he finds himself in a job that becomes very troubling.
All of these stories are connected in many ways where they’re all connected by dogs and this car accident that would affect everything. Guillermo Arriaga’s screenplay does start off conventionally with Octavio and Susan’s story while there would be little glimpses of the activities of El Chivo as well as Octavio and Jorge watching Valeria on TV. Even as it plays to these intricacies in the script where some of these characters from one story could be in the background while the focus is more in the foreground. Arriaga also goes for a unique approach to narrative where it plays into the effects of these events as each character would encounter moments of death as well as what is important in life. Octavio is motivated by money in order to get Susana out of a terrible marriage yet there are complications when it comes to winning Susana and dealing with the reckless ideas of his brother Ramiro.
The Daniel-Valeria story is one about vanity as Arriaga explores the decisions one makes where Daniel has fallen for this model but her desire to be Mexico’s top model would have serious repercussions as Valeria is affected badly by the accident. Adding to the drama is Valeria’s dog Richie who disappears under a hole on the floor as Daniel’s attempts to save the dog as it plays into the decisions that Daniel has made. The third and final story about El Chivo is most poignant as it plays to his love for dogs and how he’s connected to them while dealing with the family he lost as he tries to meet his estranged daughter. Yet, a mission to kill a businessman would have some moral implications forcing him to make a decision that would be very effective. It plays to not just some of social classes that surround these people but also in their motivations and how it can make them lose sight of what is important.
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s direction is truly gripping from the way he makes Mexico City a character in the film to the array of shooting styles he infuses into his compositions. Much of it involves these approach to close-ups and medium shots to play into the action and drama where some of the sequences such as the dog fights have this sense of frenetic energy. Even as Inarritu presents a sense of danger in the violence to showcase how graphic and real these dog fights feel. There’s also some intimate moments where Inarritu makes the drama feel real such as the situation involving Daniel and Valeria where they to save Valeria’s dog. Since this is a multi-layered film with various stories that are connected with one another, Inarritu does create sequences such as the car crash to showcase exactly what is going on and how it would connect all of the stories together.
The sequence would be shown from multiple perspective where there’s major characters in the foreground or another is in the background or vice versa depending on the point of view of the character that is involved. It would play into a major impact in driving the story as Inarritu creates these set-ups to showcase its aftermath. Much of it is very grim and quite punishing into the decisions these people would make. It adds to not just the frenetic tone of the film but also one that is very dramatic in terms of what these characters have to go through as well as the choices they have to live with. Overall, Inarritu crafts a very dark yet intoxicating film about life decisions and the desire to seek a good life in the crazed world that is Mexico City.
Cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto does phenomenal work with the film‘s grimy yet stylish cinematography with its use of grainy film stock to play into the sense of realism of the locations as he displays different looks for each segment to play into the contrasting worlds the characters live in. Editors Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Luis Carballar, and Fernando Perez Unda do brilliant work with the editing to play into the frenetic energy of the film with jump-cuts and some stylish fast cuts along with some stylish cutting to play into the car crash sequence. Production designer Brigitte Boch, with set decorator Julieta Alvarez and art director Melo Hinojosa, does amazing work with the set pieces from the grimy and cramped home of Octavio and his family to the more posh apartment home of Valeria and Daniel.
Costume designer Gabriela Diaque does nice work with the costumes from the youthful look of Octavio, the posh clothes of Valeria and Daniel, and the ragged look of El Chivo. Sound designer Martin Hernandez and co-sound editor Roland N. Thai do excellent work with the sound work to convey the atmosphere of each location and how it plays into the drama of the differing segments in the film. The film’s music by Gustavo Santaolalla is incredible for its very haunting score filled with folk-based acoustic guitars and traditional Mexican-style music with contributions from Daniel Hidalgo while music supervisor Lynn Fainchtein brings in a soundtrack filled with traditional Mexican music as well as hip-hop and rock to play into the different worlds of the characters.
The casting by Manuel Teil is fantastic as it features some notable small roles from Laura Almela as Daniel’s estranged wife, Gerardo Campbell as the dog fight organizer Mauricio, Humberto Busto as Octavio’s friend Jorge, Ricardo Dalmacci as Valeria’s fake-boyfriend Andres Salgado, Jose Sefami as a corrupt cop who assigns El Chivo different assignments, Rodrigo Murray as a man who hires El Chivo to kill someone, Jorge Salinas as the man El Chivo has to kill, and Lourdes Echevarria as El Chivo’s estranged daughter Maru. Other noteworthy small roles include Marco Perez in a terrific role as Ramiro whose recklessness and abusive treatment of Susana angers Octavio while Gustavo Sanchez Parra is superb as the very menacing Jaroch whom Octavio contends with in the dog fights unaware of how crazy he is.
Vanessa Bauche is excellent as Susana as a young woman who is dealing with the harsh treatment from her husband as well as Octavio’s affections as she becomes conflicted and confused over what to do. Goya Toledo is fantastic as the model Valeria whose charmed life is destroyed by an accident as the obsession to save her dog showcases her vanity. Alvaro Guerrero is amazing as Daniel as Valeria’s lover who deals with the decision he makes as he tries to help her save her dog which prompts him questioning the decisions he made. Emilio Echevarria is brilliant as El Chivo as a troubled hitman who lives a very poor life as he survives to kill as he longs to reunite with his estranged daughter while dealing with a chilling assignment. Finally, there’s Gael Garcia Bernal in a remarkable performance as Octavio as a young man trying to help his sister-in-law while embarking into a money-making plan that would later get him in trouble as he deals with what it would cost him.
Amores Perros is a magnificent film from Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu. Featuring an amazing cast, a gripping script from Guillermo Arriaga, and chilling themes on social classes, love, loyalty, and death. It’s a film that truly exemplify some of the dark aspects of humanity as well as the world where some try to do right with the noblest intentions only to succumb to reality. In the end, Amores Perros is a sensational film from Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu.
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu Films: The Hire-Powder Keg - 11'9'01 September 11-Mexico - 21 Grams - Babel - To Each His Own Cinema-Anna - Biutiful - Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance - The Revenant - The Auteurs #45: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
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