review by Jaap Mees
The director/producer Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu (1963) was a radio DJ and made numerous commercials before he embarked on Amores Perros. Some critics compared his film immediately with Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Pulp Fiction’, but the only thing they have in common is the non-linear three part structuring of their films. Inarittu’s film is strongly rooted in Mexican urban life, whereas Tarantino’s films are populated by one dimensional comic books characters.
The film has three major stories, of which the main characters are all involved in the same bloody car crash. First there is Octavio( very well played by Gael Garcia), an intense teenager who is in love with his brother’s wife, Susanna(Vanessa Bauche) and can’t stand it how brutally he treats her. He has a Rottweiler called Cofi, which he uses in illegal dogfights to make some money. He plans to save some for taking Susanna with him one day.
This sounds all very violent and bloody and the dogfights and especially the car crash, which appears three times is really graphically filmed, but cut sharply and never gratuitous. Inarittu never indulges in the violence, like Tarantino does, but shows it realistically and cuts as soon as possible to the next scene.
Her leg gets seriously infected and has to be amputated. In a heart breaking scene, she comes home and looks out of the window where a gigantic poster of herself advertising a perfume used to hang on the wall. Now it says: space available.
The third story is about an old down and out hit man, impressive Emillio Echevarria, who lives in a grotty house with his dogs. He is just about to kill another dodgy young business man, when he witnesses the car crash. He sees that Octavio is looked after, but the heavily injured dog Cofi is left on his own at the side of the road. He takes the dog home and makes him recover.
What makes Amores Perros such a terrific film is the perfect balance between the style and content, combined with spot on casting in all parts, not just the major ones.
Handheld energetic camera work, with lots of exquisite close ups of great faces, combined with a high voltage story line, with characters who all have a certain beauty, (except Octavio’s brutal brother), and complexity. All of them suffer a lot and Inarritu’s excellent cameraman, Rodrigo Prieto, follows them around very closely, you get really involved and care about them. Amores Perros is one of those rare films, whose gripping images whirlwind in your mind long after the last credits. The critics are right this time: go and see it!!!