Review #300 - Amores Perros (2000)

Director:  Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
Cast:  Emilio EchevarríaGael García Bernal, Goya Toledo
Plot:  A horrific car accident connects three stories, each involving characters dealing with loss, regret, and life's harsh realities, all in the name of love.

Genre:  Drama / Thriller

Awards:  Won Critics Week Grand Prize (Cannes).  Nom. for 1 Oscar - Best Foreign Language Film.
Runtime:  154min
Rating:  M18 for violence/gore, language and sexuality.

One of the shining lights of 21st century independent cinema, Mexican director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's debut picture, Amores Perros, packs a solid punch.  Nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and winning numerous plaudits in film festivals around the globe, Amores Perros is a unique picture that is presented non-linearly and has three sub-stories that are inextricably linked in the wake of a terrible car accident.

The three sub-stories have a resounding theme, one that homes in on the relationships between people and dogs, and juxtaposing it with the relationships amongst people.  The title Amores Perros is loosely translated as 'love's a bitch', an apt title considering the content of the film.  Here, 'love's a bitch' can mean 'dog-loving' or that 'loving someone is unpleasant'.  Both are relevant in this context. The screenplay by Guillermo Arriaga may seem incoherent at first but as the film plays on, viewers will gradually get the big picture.

Two-thirds into Amores Perros will probably leave most viewers amazed at what Arriaga and Inarritu are trying to attempt; the three seemingly unrelated stories that are connected to each other are done with such consummate skill that it's like three pictures rolling into one.  The quick-cut editing and lots of close-up shots of people make Amores Perros a gritty and in-your-face piece of filmmaking.  The music used is minimal (a hallmark of Gustavo Santaolalla's score which consists mostly of the solo strumming of a guitar), though the sudden input of modern Spanish song-and-dance tracks might be too intrusive for some. 

Amores Perros is vulgar both in terms of language used as well as from the copious amounts of violence and gore observed, especially when it is inflicted on dogs by dogs.  Any animal lover is advised to stay away from Amores Perros although the filmmakers have repeatedly stressed that no animals were harmed during filming.  If there's a flaw to the picture, it will be its long runtime of 150-plus minutes.  And it is also one of the reasons Inarritu's next two pictures, 21 Grams and Babel, are more concise and better conceptualized within a shorter runtime.  It's a rousing debut, though Amores Perros is not Inarritu's best effort (21 Grams remains my personal favorite of the trio).  But then, Mexican filmmaking is still an experience to behold.


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