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Tuesday, 10 December 2019

Retro Review: Amores Perros (2000)

Amores Perros aka Love's A B***h
Cast: Gael Garcia Bernal, Emilio Echevarria, Goya Toledo, Alvaro Guerro, Vanessa Bauche, Jorge Salinas, Adriana Barraza
Genre: Crime Drama
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $20 million

Plot: A horrific car accident connects three stories, each involving characters dealing with loss, regret, and life's harsh realities, all in the name of love 

'Must -See Spanish Language Flick That Doesn't Lose Its Bark'

Amores Perros is a film that will raise eyebrows, from the very first act & all the way to the last, with a particular and central focus on dogfighting and bloody canine-based brutality that will shock and upset many dog lovers. It's a Mexican version of Steven Soderbergh's 2000 Traffic with its crossover and interlinked subplots with the contrasting and harrowing dogs in a car crash scenes & blended with an unblinking, cynical and gritty take on love that was nominated in the best foreign film category in 2001's Academy Awards.

Set in Mexico City, the first story involves a young man Octavio who has a crush on his abusive brother's wife and envisions a future with her by his side; when he discovers his dog, Cofi has a killer instinct by killing animals, he seizes on this opportunity to make enough money so that he and her can run away together. The second centres on a model, Valeria who experienced a car crash and who is still recovering from her injuries as she is confined to a wheelchair. Her dog, Richi was chasing a ball and ends up falling through the hole of the floor and is unable to come out. The third and final tale sees a down- &- out tramp and hitman, El Chivo rescuing and nursing injured dogs back to health, but who is also trying to come to terms with the past and to reconnect with his estranged daughter, of whom he had neglected and lost contact with.

The second act with Daniel/Valeria just didn't do it for me personally and lacked the potency and emotional feel of the first tale; unappealing, less satisfying and not very interesting either, it also feels completely out-of-sync in contrast to the first and final acts, it just didn't mesh well with the film's intended serious tone. Plus, at over 2 hours long, although the story didn't feel bloated, this film was way too long that the structure lacks a central purpose and there can be an argument that the female characters weren't portrayed in a flattering light.

Amores Perros contains grisly scenes involving dogs being brutally mutilated and bloodied, if you are a dog or animal lover, you might be taken aback by this and these can be difficult to stomach - although it is stated that no dogs were harmed during the making of this movie and that these were all simulated.

The characters themselves are well-defined, well-conceived - if not completely likeable and empathetic enough to fully root for; they can rub viewers up the wrong way as they can be perceived as irritating, and still, they are given plenty of scope for the story to manoeuvre as their motivations, reasons and decisions that they each make, come to ahead, particularly towards the end of the climatic and dramatic final act. Themes such as desolation, poverty, social redemption, the downfalls that fame poses and human and animal loss and suffering are deftly touched upon and with plausibility and realism. The performances all-round are absolutely great; likewise, lead man Gael Garcia Bernal, who here, demonstrates what a quality actor he can be, as he brims confidence, energy and a watchability factor in an early turn of his, along with a compelling screenplay at his disposal and cinematography-wise, Amores Perros, for a little known movie and when it comes to 2000s films as a whole, this is still impressive stuff.

Had the second act been as great as the first one or as good as the third act, Amores Perros would have been a truly excellent film. But still, two out of three ain't bad. Raw, occasionally brutal and intricate, though it is also gripping with engrossing and overlapping storylines that take effect and no- holds- barred ambitious filmmaking that builds and maintains suspense, multiple times, it still went out of its way to keep me engaged, whilst breathing new life into the dramatic genre of filmmaking.

Final Verdict:

This is a tragi-tale, and a decidedly bleak one, but also it manages not to shy away by being upfront and whilst it could have and should have gone even deeper and further, I still can't fault it.

A Spanish language and character-driven based piece whereby the metaphor of dogs is a catalyst for change for Valeria, El Chivo and Octavio in both good and bad ways, Amores Perros is definitely one everyone should see at least once in their lives.


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