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There is a character in 'Amores perros' who looks like Karl Marx. He is a
tramp and an assassin, a good bourgeois who one day, Reggie Perrin-like,
abandoned his family, and, un-Reggie Perrin-like, joined the Sandanistas in
an effort to create a better world, earning 20 years in prison for his
troubles. Walking the streets with a creaky cart and a gaggle of mangy
dogs, he was found by the policeman who jailed him, who gave him a dingy
place to live, food, and the odd, non-official contract.
El Chivo is the soul of the film, the missing link, both in appearance (a man called 'The Goat', who has rejected the civilities of society and lives a beast-like existence with his dogs, amongst the ruins of civilisation), and narrative function. With intricate structure, 'Amores perros' tells three stories, one of underclass Mexican life, where survival depends on what New Labour calls 'illegal economies' (dog-fighting, bank-robbing etc.), where bright young women are stifled and degraded by thoughtless pregnancies and brutal marriages, where single mothers depend (and usually can't depend) on shiftless sons for subsistence; and this world's mirror opposite, the world of the media, of celebrity, of models and magazine editors, of daytime TV, perfume advertising campaigns and bright apartments. Family life is central here too, although in this case it is torn apart by more pleasanntly bourgeois ailments like ennui and dissatisfaction.
These two stories are mediated by the narrative of El Chivo, the man who left one of these worlds for the other, but who still negotiates the two, through his search for the daughter he left as a toddler, and in his 'job', wiping out businessman. If Mexico is emerging as part of the super-confident globalism of high-capitalism, than El Chivo is the grizzly sore thumb, the ex-Sandinista, the Marx lookalike, the man who said no, the drop-out, the forgotten, the depleted spirit of the Left, happily killing and torturing the servants of the new economic regime.
There is something Biblical about his hirsute ascetism too, presuming to judge the 'Cain and Abel' half-brothers, one an adulterer, the other with a contract out on his sibling, another example of family gone badly wrong. This, the bleak funeral and grave scenes, and Octavia's functional crossing himself every time he passes an icon on the landing, are the sole residual elements of religion in a society once ostentatiously religious.
Except for the director. Like Paul Thomas Anderson in 'Magnolia', although to a less self-conscious degree, Gonzales Inarritu is the God of his film, intricately creating the structure that links his characters and their different environments. These are negative connections, however, which work against the idea of coherent meaning in life - contact usually results in destruction (physical, material, spiritual), or diminishing.
He is also an Old Testament god, punishing those who would get too confident with their future plans or their seemingly inviolable present success - the gains of capitalism are prey to the violent whims of chance: Gonzalez Inarritu doesn't need frogs to shake a rigid society or mindset.
Moral change is linked to physical change - being beaten up, losing a leg, cutting hair. The punning title, with its reference to the dog-eat/fight-dog nature of modern life, and its general unsatisfactoriness, also gives the film its Biblical feel, the idea of Mexico as an asphalt desert, or a rubbish heap, with all these scrawny mutts scavenging the remains.
'Amores perros' shares the sickly, bleached near-monochrome look of many recent crime films, like 'Chopper' or 'Bleeder'. But where the heightened mise-en-scene in those works were expressionistic projections of their protagonists' psychosis, here it's part of a controlling world-view, the universal consciousness that creates, connects and destroys.
The three stories, though connected narratively and symbolically, are mutually distinct - the first is an exhilirating mix of violent gangster film and frustrated romance; the second is like a short story (the screenwriter is a novelist), a figurative plot where movement is through image, symbol and idea, rather than film narrative; the third is a kind of spiritual journey, with an appropriately Biblical (or Wim Wenders-like) openness.
'Amores perros' is not quite as amazing as its admirers claim - it says more about contemporary cinema that a film only has to hold your interest for it to be a masterpiece - but it is consistently enthralling, and, despite all the stylistic tics and brutal violence, bracingly humanist.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
True to the structure, Iñárritu attacks the subject of love with a
multi-pronged approach, addressing three different stages, or
common in `love.' All three storylines represent the `struggling' aspect
love. It would be fair to say that Amores Perros, roughly translated to
`Love's a Bitch,' makes the ultimate statement, `Love is a struggle.'
specifically, however, Octavio's narrative can be most suitably seen as
`hunt for love' and acquisition or fight for it. To be with his love,
Susana, he must overcome both the fact that his brother is married to her
and the fact that his dreams of leaving the city are hamstrung by his less
than admirable socio-economic state. Daniel and Valeria, who are about
fifteen to twenty years Octavio and Susana's elders, represent love's most
frustrating peak - when one is already in it and wants or needs to get
for better of for worse. Daniel is trying to get out of a marriage in
he has kids to be with the supermodel, Valeria, a woman whose meaning to
is ultimately superficial. El Chivo, whose story is a perfect compliment
Daniel's, represents distance and alienation from love, inwardly looking
it from the outside. He has abandoned his family twenty years prior to
become a guerilla terrorist and now operates as a vagabond hit man. It
would be difficult to look at these three different `stages' of love in a
classically structured film. The episodic structure eases us between each
stage, at no point forcing us to tolerate the unrealistic concept of one
couple going through all of these stages. Breaking it up into three
different narratives, each revolving around different characters, presents
the audience with the ability to view each story as independent the
a more pervasive perspective.
However, this film is not a simple three-part love story. In Amores Perros, violence is akin to love. Each character displays this brutally: El Chivo leaves his love to be a terrorist; Octavio engages his dog in violence and even attempts murder to provide money for his love; Daniel and Valeria's relationship is verbally and nearly physically volatile to the point where they hate each other. Each character's love for another character is manifested in their violent acts. This is an interesting theme considering the paradoxical relationship between love and violence, one of which is the induction of harm, the other which is the polar opposite. This juxtaposition of love and violence, if for no other reason, is meant to show the impulsive nature of love. We take it for granted as a compassionate, helping characteristic of life but Iñárritu reveals his characters through this juxtaposition, allowing the audience to consider the consequences of love that are otherwise unforeseen.
Iñárritu does a lot of things right in this film. Mainly, he keeps us in constant suspense through the causality of the plot, forcing us to anticipate the results of the characters' actions. This causality can be as brazen as Octavio's decision to stab Jarocho, inevitably leading one into apprehension over what will happen to Octavio. Less obviously, however, is the way he creates suspense around Daniel and Valeria. Their whole relationship is characterized by conflict. While this makes for good dialogue, it insists upon a boiling point - one that is anticipated throughout the entire length of their chapter. Likewise, there is delicate suspense over what Valeria's disfigurement will mean for their relationship. Not only is Daniel forced to confront whether or not Valeria's beauty is the only thing keeping them together, but Valeria must adjust to living without her beauty. Suspense revolves around El Chivo from the moment he first comes onto screen. We see him. He murders someone. We're back to the story of Octavio. The entire first two hours of the movie beg of an answer as to who this man is and what he has to do with the subject of the film. We later find out, not only does he have everything to do with it; he makes the film, seeking redemption on behalf of every other love-torn character. The type of monologue Emilio Echevarria's character, El Chivo, delivers at the end of the film would have a completely different meaning in a film without an episodic structure, in which case he would only be seeking redemption for himself. However, the way Iñárritu cross cuts between El Chivo and the other characters, in all their woe - the consequences of their actions, applies greater meaning to El Chivo's words and actions in the final scene.
Perhaps where we get some of the most important information about the characters, and Amores Perros as a whole, is through what is representative. Iñárritu makes steady use of symbols and motifs throughout the film, some of which work well, lending themselves nicely to the dramatic structure of the film, others failing to enhance the story. For example, the massive Enchant billboard looming above Valeria's apartment like the eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg is one of the more lackluster motifs in the film. First, we are unavoidably asking, `Why they would want to live under that thing in the first place? Second, the removal of the billboard coinciding with the fall of Valeria's career, Daniel's self-assurance, their relationship, whatever you want to intuit, is much to explicit for this film. The more understated motifs such as the recurring telephone ring, `Bueno?.Bueno?' someone always answers, come off better. This repetition is telling of the deception and unfaithfulness rampant in this world. It works. Another representative device that supplements the story is how the dogs act as metaphors for their respective owners. El Chivo's dogs are the very embodiment of him. They are all strays much the same way he is a vagrant. Cofi, Octavio's rottweiler is equivalent to Octavio in his impulsive and aggressive behavior. This is displayed in Cofi most notably during the fight scenes, but we see it particularly in Octavio when he head-butts his brother, Ramiro, and when he stabs Jarocho in the stomach and thereby provoking the car chase. Valeria's dog, Richie, is lost under the floorboards, confined for most of this narrative. Valeria is physically much the same way, confined to her wheelchair. More implicitly, she is confined to a life that has been propped up around her by people who idolize, envy, or lust after her. Valeria's death is also parallel to her dog's death in that they both die from their respective internment, Valeria being trapped in a room and too immobile to save herself, Richie trapped in the floor and too exhausted to fend off armies hungry rats. The motifs and metaphors within each narrative help structure them as self-contained bodies.
The episodic structure of Amores Perros could have been damaging to the film had it not been for the inspired way the stories overlap only so much as to not exasperate the audience. In the three stories, rarely does a character from one interact with a character from another, outside the unifying car crash scene. There are truly only two occurrences: when El Chivo, sword in hand, scares off a frustrated Jarocho who plans to sic his dog on one of El Chivo's, and when Valeria appears on a Mexican morning show broadcast into Octavio's home the morning of the accident. This interaction was all that was needed for Amores Perros to be successful as an episodic film. Its structure lends itself well to subject matter and storyline. Iñárritu tells it to us this way; the literary devices at use bring it to life and its structure gives it legs to move. Throughout it, so well crafted, one can mentally fuse all three stories together and see one single character going through the process of fighting for love, realizing what a trivial pursuit it is, abandoning it, and then spending the rest of his life trying to touch it from behind the bars self-guilt.
Maybe for most of you, people outside third-world countries like Mexico or Colombia, my home, movies like ths one are only representations of another world... something away from you. My city, medellin, is one of the most dangerous cities on the world. Mexico city can be as dangerous as medellin. I`m not talking about politics. maybe you haven`t lived violence as near as i have, but im gonna tell you something, that is the main reason i voted 9 this movie: Amores perros is not fiction. Its a perfect peep to what life is here. We have expensive models that go to stupid tv shows, we have dog fighting, we have mercedes, we have old trucks, we have killers, businessmen, we feel love, we have houses... our life, as you can see in the movie, isn`t as different as you think. Amores perros can show you that life is not easy here. but that`s it. What you saw is thousand`s of people life. that`s why it`s so magic to you. Yourè seeing what you will never live there, in london, new york, seattle, paris, berlin... reality is weirder than fiction... see it on amores perros, and you`ll believe me... live it here, and no movie will surprise you
'Amores Perros' impressed the hell out of me. Three interrelated tales of the darker side of life in contemporary Mexico City, each one as fresh and as fascinating as the last. Each of the three stories are dark, disturbing and filled with humanity. Superbly acted all round, but especially noteworthy is the standout performance by Emilio Echevarria as El Chivo, a political dissident turned hitman, and if the charismatic Gael Garcia Bernal (Octavia, the lovesick dog fighter) isn't an international star in the making I'll eat my words. This brilliant movie shows up the mediocrity of most current Hollywood "product", and to my mind ranks with a small handful of movies made this decade ('Chopper', 'The Pledge', 'The Way Of The Gun') that are truly memorable and with genuine substance. This one is a winner and essential viewing for all movie lovers. A future classic.
I think we're talking about one of the best Mexican films ever (i say
so, knowing there's been excellent Luis Buñuel films as well as Arturo
Ripstein ones, like 'Principio y Fin' -Begining and End- that is this
director's highest peak (based on the book by Naguib Mafusz)and Emilio
'El Indio' Fernandez ones that i don't personally like that much (even
though he received the Golden Bear in the 'Berlinale').
Being surrounded by terrible Mexican movies, 'Amores Perros' was so refreshing and remarkably above every expectation that everybody could have about a first-time director (even though he was well-known for his wonderful work at advertising (changing the way ads were made in Mexico) and as a radio DJ in a WFM radio station that contributed to change radio in Mexico, too, along with Rock 101. Gonzalez Iñarritu (in cooperation with his almost personal screenwriter, Guillermo Arriaga) creates such a complex yet flawless history based on three individual ones that converge not only in the dantesque (reference to Dante Alighieri's style, The Divine Comedy) car accident, but in their perception and description of how love can be harsh, as well as life itself, of how love can get to be a bitch, a struggle.
First Story ('Octavio y Susana') is about Octavio's (Garcia Bernal) obsession with his sister-in-law, Susana (Vanessa Bauche), but it's also about the violence, about an illusion, about betrayal, about loss. This is also reflected in the character of Octavio's dog, Cofi in a parallel relationship with his owner while he seeks his own destiny, having lost everything, he'll have to redefine his life. This parallelism also occurs in the second story('Daniel y Valeria'), an almost surreal one, where Ritchie being trapped underneath the condo's floor represents how it's owner Valeria (Goya Toledo) is trapped in a relation with Daniel that grows sicker as her injury (caused by the car accident) gets worse. The removal of the gigantic advertising of 'Enchant', the scent campaign that she used to be the image for, from the view of her balcony represents their decline: Daniel (Avaro Guerrero) left behind his marriage for this superficial mirage kind of dream, and she will have to make a whole redefinition of her life after losing everything. The dog-character parallelism with the main characters of this film can also be noticed in the third story ('El Chivo y Maru'), where 'El Chivo' (Emilio Echevaria), a former College teacher that left it all, family included, to become some guerrilla terrorist (is there a symbolism for Subcommander Marcos, from EZLN?), and now finds, by losing it all (all of his dogs being killed), but finding a new reason, new company just before a hit-man-type mission where he sets a confrontation between two brothers in such a biblical style the chance that none of the characters from the rest of the stories had: redemption. That's when he decides to retrieve some of the things he has lost, like Maru (Lourdes Echevarria -Emilio's actual daughter in real life), by at least apologizing to her, and redeeming himself finding a new life. It's clear that he'll stop being a homeless, because by the end of the movie he's got plenty of money. This story is one step ahead of the other two, cause after the loss they are all victims of, 'El Chivo' is the only one who gets that chance to start from scratch once again. Huge merit to Emilio Echevarria's performance for making believable the only character that was in risk of not being plausible of the film. Because of the relation within the characters, their dogs and their own love personal story, the title is, too a big success (both in Spanish and in English).
Of the episodic narrative structure of the movie (a few critics in the Cannes Film Festival compared it with Tarantino's Pulp Fiction), it can be said that besides making it more beautiful and complex, it's also necessary. One can't figure a way to resolve the situation other than this one. The thrill, the shock would never be the same. For example, if each one was a short film instead, it wouldn't work the same way as the whole movie.
In the film, Gonzalez Iñarritu allows himself to appear a few times: in the editorial where Daniel works, for example, verifying a magazine cover; having some of the TV spots he made in the 90's when he was a publicist shown in the movie; and in the last scene, 'El Chivo' names the dog he rescued (formerly known as Cofi) as 'El Negro', Iñarritu's nickname.
Some people just won't want to sit through this film because of the overtly graphic and disturbing dog fighting scenes, which is ironic, because most people don't seem to mind the graphic violence involving the people in this film. Others simply won't watch it because of the subtitles. This is a shame, since this is by far the best film I have ever seen come out of Mexico (far better and more complex than the comparably immature "Y Tu Mama Tambien"). Here we get an intertwining tale involving dog fights, petty gangsters, a tragically injured model, a cheating husband, an abused teenage wife, and a homeless hit man. As you might expect the homeless hit man becomes the soul of the film, and the dogs serve as a link, reminding us of the violence we inflict upon each other and nature, and the fractured relationships we think beyond repair, but are actually more resilient than we could ever imagine. Brilliantly directed with a great soundtrack and a bigger heart than you might initially perceive, "Amores Perros" is a deep, thought-provoking and utterly enthralling film that you will not soon forget.
This Mexican movie was surprisingly good. I confess the sin of prejudice
concerning Mexican cinema, this being maybe the second Mexican film I have
ever seen, but here my sins are punished. This is the work of a director of
big talent. Hopefully, he will not be spoiled by the success.
Three different stories in today's Mexico mix with very few common elements. The characters belong to different social categories, and nothing connects them at first sight, excepting the feeling of un-happiness, and - yes - dogs. Dogs play an important role in all three stories. One more warning - there is a lot of cruelty including dog fights - this film is certainly not for sensitive animal lovers.
Directing is excellent, the stories are human and complex and despite their melodramatic or sometimes tragic outcome, they still leave you with a shade of hope - maybe because the humanity that the author uses to create his characters. There are so many memorable scenes, that I would commit another sin to pick any and describe it here - just rent, or go to watch this movie in the theater - it is worth all 150 or so minutes you will spend. 9/10 on my personal scale.
Thanks to contributors, plot synopsis has been very well written.
Amores Perros is included in the most important movies for the
beginning of the 21st century. It marked a new epoch with its
thoroughly life-like vision on a twist of fate. Then in a 5 years' of
time within more recognized movies, we started seeing similar plot
schemes telling different stories over accidents that binds each
person's fate. One of them was Crash, and it won the best picture Oscar
The more you see this film over and over again you'll get to a deeper point where the lives and choices of the characters won't matter any more. It's still affecting in the first-time watch, but with an examining view the next time you see it; you're driven into a vision, a cast of mind.There were 3 main characters and 3 main stories from each one, which are nested altogether. If we look at these stories over the characters' relationships with their dogs, it's intriguing. As if the dogs exemplify their owners:
1' Young loafer Octavio commits crime in order to earn money to make a living. He fights his dog Cofi in dog-fighting tournaments. How Cofi needs to fight for his life, so does need Octavio to commit crime for his life.
2' In the second story, beautiful model Valeria receives a surprise gift from her fiancé to choose a puppy from a pet store. By time, the puppy gets used to live a super-luxury pet life; which is the same life style of her owner. Valeria and her fiancé's apartment unit is under a hardwood flooring construction. One day while alone at home the puppy falls into a gap between the hardwood and the concrete; thus stays stuck there and began to squawk, since she is not used to live without comfort. At the same day her owner Valeria gets involved in a car accident while driving alone, having no one to help her just as happened to her puppy. She loses her leg in this accident and her luxury life comes to an end, as same as the life of her puppy. She begins complaining like her puppy squawking.
3' In the last story, the grim hit-man El Chivo saves the life of Octavio's dog Cofi, after Octavio gets killed in the traffic accident in which Valeria lost her leg. Saving him changes Cofi's life, he no longer needs to fight for Octavio's bets on dog-fighting. His life becomes safe and peaceful. El Chivo starts looking after Cofi beside his other dogs. Among the other dogs Cofi looks very ugly and dirty. One day when El Chivo leaves the dogs together at home, Cofi kills every one of them. His reason of killing all the dogs explains why his owner is a hit-man. As Cofi killed innocent dogs; El Chivo kills innocent people for El Chivo seeing himself ugly,dirty and strange among the people; like his dog feeling himself ugly,dirty and strange among the dogs. El Chivo feels bad about his dogs, when he finds out Cofi has killed them. Yet, he feels worse about himself when he actually realizes that Cofi's attitude gave him a lesson of life. Then El Chivo shaves, cuts his beard and hair, gets cleaned up and turns out looking like a gentleman. Cofi's attitude changes his life; his life becomes safe and peaceful just as when El Chivo saved Cofi's life.
The vision we're getting when we compare these 3 stories is about the public loneliness of an individual. The only person, who can guide and who can help us, is ourselves. This loneliness brings our freedom of choices. With making our own choices, we build the essence of our character: Our quintessences. Life is sum of all our choices. In order to build our quintessences; we always face the risk, fear and pressure of the chance of making a wrong choice. Life makes it obligatory to make choices. This obligatory builds our inner crisis and develops our personality. To find the secrets of our own personality, we try to find someone or something else to lay a burden on the responsibility of self-search. Here in Amores Perros, the 3 main characters are used by their self-search reflection on their dogs.
Doesn't this vision form the idea of Jean Paul Sartre's "Being and Nothingness"? Since Amores Perros hides the character views through the situations created by dogs; it is a movie that has no characters, but only situations. This is the systematic of Existentialism. If there was no situation or happening, there wouldn't have been any characters. Existence precedes essence. A person is nothing without his actions. So, a person doesn't have a soul(or a character) if he is not alive. Then there wasn't and won't be anything before and after our lives.
If we don't believe in this vision, certainly the signs of fate that we come across in our lives must be delusion.
A masterpiece. Plain and simple. This picture transcends any language and
culture, making us all be able to relate to each of its characters. I don't
buy the comparison to Pulp Fiction or any other work. The disregard of
chronological scene order and intertwining storylines have been occuring in
films for years. Its done for effect here, is all.
Alejandro Inarritu simply lets his actors take over and finishes off a puzzle that is almost complete as a result of the writing and acting. Not to denigrate his work, of course. After all, the ability to trust your actors and let them work is key to being a great director. BTY, more films need to be made in Mexico City, the largest in the world.
A young man gets into the world of illegal dog fighting in order to get
enough money together to be able to run away with his brother's wife,
but in the meantime he starts tension with another dog owner. A
beautiful young model signs a lucrative contract with a perfume company
and moves into her new flat with her lover only for her tragedy to
strike and her dog to go missing. Finally an ex-convict and guerrilla
mourns the wife he left decades ago and longs to meet the daughter who
thinks he is dead but is also contracted to kill a businessman. These
three lives come together in a car crash that acts as a catalyst in
changing their lives.
After seeing 21 Grams I knew that I had to get round to seeing this film. With it's appearance on TV (BBC4 showing itself to really be a 'place to think' and a wonderful channel to have) I took the opportunity to watch it, expecting a film that would match the good things I had heard about it. >From the opening car chase that results in the crash that the film spirals outwards from like debris, through for most of the first hour, I was hooked the pace was great and the story gripping. It was violent, exciting and yet had a human element to it as well. However the second story knocked the wind out of it for a moment, and seemed to lack the emotion of the first. It was based around an urban myth of sorts and wasn't as good even if it did pick up towards the end.
The third story saw it return to a much more involving story of pain and the grinding out of life (as in 'getting by'). Maybe it was the rich lifestyles of the characters in story two that stopped me caring as much I don't know but I know that the contrast between one & two made it more obvious how much the pace had dropped especially when we are left wanted to know what happened to the characters we had spent an hour getting to care about. Anyway, the third story is a satisfying ending to the film and drew me back in emotionally where the second story had cut me off by it's abrupt start. Story two finishes before story three begins, and therefore it was easier to move on.
I think the problem with this film for me was not the fact that three stories were intermingled but that I didn't think they were actually mixed well the way the film moves away from characters before concluding their section (eg Octavia), the way the stories are actually quite separate from one another, these things and other I felt weakened the films although each story was strong on it's own I just felt that story 2 was such a change to the film that it hurt it.
However, as a film debut this is an amazing piece of work and is relentlessly impressive. From the opening car chase to the dog fights to the silent pain of the model looking out where her image once hung in all these different moments I thought he did a great job and visually the film was never dull once no matter if it was set in a penthouse flat or a basement of an old building with the blood of dead dogs. And while we're on the subject, at the time of release I heard critics say they walked out of the film, refusing to watch cruelty to animals even being simulated. I can see their point but also think that they missed the fact that the animals in the film are mostly loved (even if they mostly die!) however it is love and compassion for other humans that the film shows the characters having difficulty with, and this is where the emotional impact of the film is not in simulated dogfights, albeit very well simulated dogfights that are hard to hear even if they are mostly unseen.
The cast were all natural but I always find it hard to judge performances when they are not in English. Having said that, there were no bad performances in the whole thing even if some have better material to work with than others. Of course I still think this is a director's film and the cast often take second place to the style and the feel of the film.
Overall I really enjoyed this film but don't believe it deserves to be considered one of the 'best films ever made'! The opening hour is superb and it's pace is relentless (even in more sensitive moments) but the sudden stop the film makes when it changes to story two is too much to stand and really caused the film to stutter for me. It gets better and is fully back on track for story three but there are problems running all through the narrative. Even though it has a lower rating on IMDb at time of writing, I'd still say that 21 Grams offer this same fragmented style but with a much more satisfying narrative. Regardless of my nit picking I still think this is a powerful film that makes 150 minutes fly by with a huge amount of style from the first-time director, even if it does not live up to the endlessly gushing praise lavished upon it by many viewers.
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