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AMORES PERROS (LOVE'S A BITCH)

SYNOPSIS:
In a serious car accident in the middle of Mexico City, three lives (and their connections) collide. Octavio (Gael Garcia Bernal) is a teenager whose dog, Cofi, gets him embroiled in illegal dog fighting. He wants to run away with his brother’s wife, Susana (Vanessa Bauche). He is driving the car, fleeing enemies from the dog fight with Cofi in the backseat, when the accident happens. Daniel (Alvaro Guerrero) is a 42 year old married man with a family who falls in love with a beautiful model, Valeria (Goya Toledo) and it is on the day he moves in with her that Valeria is involved in the car accident. El Chivo (Emilio Echevarria) is one of the pedestrians on the spot at the time of the crash, an ex communist and ex-prisoner now a dishevelled tramp – and part time assassin. He saves the badly wounded Cofi, takes him home (to join his other dogs) and nurses him back to life. For each of these characters, love is a very complex thing, offering much more than simple joy.

"It took a year to get to Australia, and then only thanks to the indie mob at Niche Pictures, who obviously know a good film when they see one. (No surprise, since they used to run the Dendy business.) The first note I made during the media preview was: "high octane opening…" It may as well stand as the mantra for the whole film, which retains its high octane rating to the very end of its 147 minute running time. That’s an achievement in itself, but there is more - as they say on the late night tv ads for steak knives. But in Amores Perros, what’s at stake is life itself. Not the predictable movie variety, where the good guy fights for his life and the bad guy always fumbles. In this film, good and bad are less easily defined, and everyday life is more akin to our own – or at least the emotional and physical problems are. Don’t try and find meaning or moral closure in Amores Perros, at least not in the standard way that many American films offer those pay-offs. There are no simple solutions or ready escapes. People are self-contradictory and sometimes likeable, sometimes irritating, sometimes vile. Tragedy and harmony live side by side, shit happens and love’s a bitch. Interlocking his three characters in the urban chaos of Mexico City – the world’s most populous place), writer Guillermo Arriaga Jordan, sets out on an ambitious screenplay "to write a script that could convey the pain, confusion, sadness, joy, ruin and hope of life itself." Well, he comes pretty close. It’s a film whose brilliance is reflected in the seamless execution. You hardly notice the acting because it isn’t ‘acting’. You hardly notice the design because it’s tangibly real and you hardly notice the score (unless you’re tuned into soundtracks) because it vibrates at the same intensity as the images. There is no happy ending, although some would say the ending is tinged with hope for new beginnings, but even so, it is shot across blackened, charred earth, looking into a distant empty industrial skyline. . . And yet, you will walk away reeling from the jolt to your senses, and perhaps Jordan’s words will echo in your ear. It’s the whole damn thing."
Andrew L. Urban

"The first and final thirds of this arresting Mexican film succeed in delivering all the shocks and jolts it intends. A curiously uninteresting middle section lets it down somewhat but not enough to prevent Amores Perros being a superior example of intense storytelling. You can practically smell the sweat and hear the pulses racing as the debut feature by director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu blasts into gear with a furious car chase that sets the tempo for what's to follow. The terror in Octavio's eyes as he's being pursued by pistol wielding enemies and the gouts of blood seeping from his dog Cofi signal the beginning of a journey to a place where life exists at its harshest and death hovers ominously. It's where Octavio's dreams of a better life with the woman he loves (his brother's wife) rest on the ability of the very same brother's dog to win fights to the death staged before a frenzied gallery of gamblers. The recurrent image of dogfights is a risky move and will upset plenty of viewers but works as a powerful and entirely appropriate metaphor for life in the world’s most populous city where horror and beauty exist at such close quarters. The animal imagery isn't used solely for shock - it delivers us to a hopeful place as the heart-wrenching story of El Chivo unfolds in the film's final stanzas. It is also present in the middle section but to much less satisfying effect. The pampered pooch that goes missing in the apartment of wealthy Daniel and lover Valeria shows us the flip side of the equation (i.e life "above" the streets) but this segment is far too prolonged and heavy-handed in execution. It's a shame because there is so much to admire in the rest of this vivid study of chance, love and redemption. Although seriously flawed in its middle, Amores Perros is still recommended viewing because for the most part it succeeds in making you feel what the characters on screen are feeling - no mean feat considering the experiences some of them are enduring."
Richard Kuipers

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 1

See our FEATURE

AMORES PERROS (MA 15+)
(LOVE’S A BITCH)
(Mexico)

CAST: Emilio Echevarría, Gaël García Bernal, Goya Toledo, Alvaro Guerrero, Vanessa Bauche, Jorge Salinas
DIRECTOR: Alejandro González Iñárritu
PRODUCER: Alejandro González Iñárritu
SCRIPT: Guillermo Arriaga Jordan
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Rodrigo Prieto
EDITOR: Alejandro González Iñárritu, Luis Carballar, Fernando Perez Unda
MUSIC: Gustavo Santaolaya
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Brigitte Broch
RUNNING TIME: 147 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Niche Pictures
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 5, 2001 in Melbourne; April 12, other cities.

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: AV Channel

VIDEO RELEASE: November 28, 2001

In Spanish with English subtitles.
AWARDS:
WINNER, Gold Hugo for Best Feature Film, Chicago Intl. Film Festival 2000
WINNER, Silver Hugo (Best Actor), Emilio Echevarria and Gael Garcia Bernal, Chicago Intl. Film Festival 2000
WINNER, GAP Audience Award - First Prize - Chicago Intl Film Festival 2000
WINNER, Best Film, Critics Week, Cannes Film Fest 2000
WINNER, Int Critics' Week Grand Rail D'Or (Audience Award) - Cannes 2000
WINNER, Prix de la Jeune Critique Mercedes Benz (Young Critics Award) - Cannes 2000
WINNER, Best New Director, Edinburgh Film Fest2000
WINNER, Grand Prix - Tokyo Film Fest 2000
WINNER, Best Director Award - Tokyo Film Fest 2000
WINNER, Governor of Tokyo Award - Tokyo Film Fest 2000
WINNER, Golden Frog Award for Cinematography (Rodrigo Prieto) - Camerimage 2000
WINNER, Grand Prix for Best Director -- Int Film Festival of Flanders 2000
WINNER, Audience Award - AFI Fest Los Angeles 2000
WINNER, Critics Award for Best Film -- Sao Paulo Int Film Fest 2000
WINNER, Glauber Rocha Best Picture - Festival de Cine Iberoamericano (Cuba) 2000
WINNER, Prix du Scenario Radio/Canada Screenplay Award (Guillermo Arriago Jordan) - Montreal 2000
WINNER, Audience Award for Best Film - Festival Int de Valdivia (Chile) 2000
WINNER, Award for Most Successful Mexican Film of 2000 at the Box Office

ACADEMY AWARDS 2001: Nominee, Best Foreign Language Film







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