The main reason I started this blog was to make me watch more movies, and to vary the kinds of movies I watched. The first part of that has been well and truly accomplished with me watching hundreds of movies for the first time, instead of falling back on old favourites over and over again. But l’m not sure if I’ve varied my selections enough. I still watch mainly American movies, with directors, writers and actors that make them a pretty safe bet. So this year, I’m forcing myself to seek out more international movies. With Foreign Language Weekends, every weekend(ish) during 2016, I’ll review two(ish) non-English language movies.
“I wanted to set the world right, and then share it with you. I failed, as you can see.”
As I write this, director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu is on the verge of winning his second Best Picture Oscar in as many years. That’s a pretty big deal. Birdman wasn’t my favourite movie of 2014, but I had no problem with it winning. The Revenant on the other hand, is in my opinion, no Best Picture contender. It’s a spectacle, it’s thrilling and it’s hard hitting, but I feel like its impact is immediate and quickly forgotten. Although, what I can’t argue with, is Inarritu’s technical skill. I might not always like the material he chooses to make, but I’m always blown away by how he makes it. Which got me interested in seeing where it all started, with his debut, Amores Perros.
A car races through the streets of Mexico City, being chased by a gang of thugs. After a serious accident, the story flashes back to how the driver of the car, Octavio (Gael Garcia Bernal), came to be in a car chase in the first place. Sharing a home with his mother, brother and brother’s wife (Vanessa Bauche as Susana), Octavio is in love with his sister in law, and dreams of a way of running away with her. When his brother’s dog kills another from the local dog fights, Octavio decides to enter the fights officially, to make the money he needs to run away with Susana.
But this isn’t just Octavia’s story. It also follows the woman he crashes into in the movie’s opening scene. Valeria (Goya Toledo) is a beautiful and successful model. And she thinks her life is complete when her boyfriend finally leaves his wife and family to make his relationship with Valeria official. But life isn’t that simple. The story also follows El Chivo (Emilio Echevarria), witness to the instigating car accident and mysterious vagrant dealing with his own dark past and present.
Loosely translated, Amores Perros means ‘Love’s a Bitch’, and this movie definitely delivers on that notion. But not in the way I expected when I saw the translated title appear in subtitles on the screen. This isn’t about the tragedy of lost love, or the misery of unrequited love. This is a story about the dumb, misguided and selfish things people do in the name of love. Sometimes not even for love, but simply for a fleeting infatuation that they convince themselves is love. With the thousands of movies over the years telling us that love conquers all, I found this cynical notion kind of refreshing.