Country: Mexico, Spain
Language: Spanish, Chinese
Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu
Alejandro González Iñárritu
Music: Gustavo Santaolalla
Cinematography: Rodrigo Prieto
Lang Sofia Lin
I have been an advocate of Iñárritu’s works continuously, AMORES PERROS (2000), 21 GRAMS (2003) and BABEL (2006), but his fourth feature length BIUTIFUL has been evading my watchlist hitherto, maybe it is its dour outlook intimidates me, although Bardem grabbed a precious BEST LEADING ACTOR nomination in a foreign language picture.
But today, I’m in an indomitable mood (thanks to my sanguine nature) so I dare to take the challenge. BIUTIFUL, the intentional spelling error rings a bell of THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS (2006, 7/10), under the same default of a divorced father struggles to maintain the subsistence with his kid(s), the latter is a bullish and aspiring fairytale while the former treads the muddy water in the underground Barcelona, with an impending terminal cancer lurks on.
Uxbal (Bardem) lives a double life, he is a medium who earns money from eliciting the last words from the deceased, also he is involved in a furtive illegal immigrant labor business with a Chinese boss Hai (Chen). With two children to foster, as a single father, when he realizes his days are numbered, it is a clarion call to urge him to be prepared and don’t leave anything unfinished, which is also why the cancer sub-genre has its unique allure since it sets a date, motivates or even coerces the protagonists to take a look at theirs lives from a different angle, to slow down the pace and engage in an introspection like in TIME TO LEAVE (2005) or to fulfill the bucket list like in MY LIFE WITHOUT ME (2003), but here, Uxbal faces a much grimmer reality, everything will collapse, sometimes even in the most horrid way (an accidental carbon monoxide poisoning results in the casualties of two dozens Chinese immigrants all because he bought the cheapest heaters), his tentative attempt to leave two kids to his bipolar ex-wife Marambra (Álvarez) leads up to a blind alley and his brother Tito (Fernández) is a giant sleaze ball. With no other option, he leaves all his savings to an African immigrant Ige (Daff), who lives with them with her own infant boy, in dire hope he wishes she can take care of his offspring, but will she? Life cannot be more harder, so death could be his deliverance.
Bardem is so emotive as the jaded father, with his perpetual greasy hair, utterly riveting in meting out the plight around him, particularly scenes with his two younglings, a dramatic turn from the deadpan and ruthless killer in NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN (2007); theatrical actress Álvarez stuns in her film debut, a far more afflicted persona beyond redemption. Being a Chinese, it does pique my curiosity to see how a foreign director does with the Chinese gay characters in their films, but as a much diluted subplot here, shamefully it has been passed over with a vilifying perspective.
BIUTIFUL is a Stygian recount of a very personal story, its often wobbly, frantic camera movements linger persistently in the seedy and cramped environs, attended by the otherworldly score from Gustavo Santaolalla, sometimes resorts to fright flick with the spectra materialize out of nowhere. Apparently my least favored Iñárritu film so far, its brooding nature and the one-sided linear narrative does deter the general audiences from emerging oneself to a sadcore once more.