Neil Young’s Film Lounge – Amores Perros

Published on: March 23rd, 2004

AMORES PERROS

6/10

(Loves A Bitch)
Mexico 2000
dir Alejandro G Inarritu
scr Guillermo A Jordan
cin Rodrigo Prieto
stars Emilio Echevarria, Gael Garcia Bernal, Vanessa Bauche, Goya Toledo
153 minutes

Amores Perros has been hyped as the Mexican Pulp Fiction, and the script shows distinct Tarantino influences, with three noirish, violent, urban stories crisscrossing back and forth in time. But Inarritus direction is a far cry from Pulps stylish gloss, favouring instead a rough-edged, hand-held, Soderbergh-ish approach. Soderbergh filmed Traffic (partly in Mexico) shortly afterwards, of course, and both movies have similar flaws: they’re entertaining and fast-moving, but are ultimately no more than skilled compilations of familiar characters and situations – conventional movies breaking little new ground as they sprawl beyond 2 hours. While neither ever drag or outstay their welcome, they’re both, in retrospect, examples of length for lengths sake.

Perross running time is likely to be trimmed by most countries censors, however, as there are lengthy sequences featuring disturbingly realistic professional dog-fights, and there are numerous horribly convincing shots of dogs (apparently) severely wounded or even killed, tongues sickeningly protruding from slack muzzles. Best In Show it aint, and the uncut movie will be tough going for many, animal lovers or not. Indeed, this reviewer made a special point of sitting in the cinema until the very end of the credits, and was mightily relieved when the no animal was harmed disclaimer appeared in English, oddly enough. Even so, the dog-fighting sequences were clearly staged as real, and its hard to see them getting by the UK classification board that refuses to pass the likes of Monte Hellmans Cockfighter and Claire Denis SEn Fout La Mort.

Dogs link the three principal tales that make up Amores Perros convoluted plot – there’s the fighting rottweiler Cofi trained by cocky youth Octavio (Bernal), who needs cash in order to elope with his violent brothers wife (Bauche). Then there’s the pack of mongrels kept by a tramp-like oldster known as El Chivu, (The Goat), a former guerrilla turned professional hitman, desperate to make contact with his estranged daughter. Further up the social scale is pedigree terrier Richie, spoiled lapdog of famous model Valeria, who suffers unexpectedly dire consequences after the pooch vanishes beneath the floorboards of her luxury apartment. The stories flick back and forth, coming violently together when Valeria and Octavios cars crash as El Chivu looks on. The hit-man rescues the injured Cofi and nurses him back to health which spells disaster for his own four-legged friends

Though Inarritu switches between the stories nimbly enough, he can’t hide the fact that they carry strikingly unequal weight. The Richie strand doesn’t really have that much to do with the two Cofi elements, and its got an altogether different tone, a Bunuelian peeling-back of celebrity societys glossy facades. It also, incidentally, strongly recalls the Twilight Zone Little Girl Lost episode that so influenced Poltergeist. The film only really hits its stride when it sticks to the dog-fighting material, especially when the charismatic Bernal (something of a Hispanic Jared Leto) is holding the screen. The rapid-fire editing and well-chosen, confident soundtrack keep things barrelling along, Inarritu succeeding in bringing to life a vibrant underground milieu with convincing though occasionally stomach-churning – attention to blood-spattered detail.

9th March, 2001

by Neil Young