Biutiful, Sadness, Humanity

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu‘s Biutiful, which ended about fifteen minutes ago, is a sad, deeply touching hard-knocks, lower-depths drama in the tradition (or along the lines, even) of Roberto Rosselini‘s Open City or Vittorio DeSica‘s The Bicycle Thief. How’s that for high praise out of the gate?

Set among the poor and deprived in Barcelona, it’s about love and caring and continuity and carrying on among those who have it toughest, and dealing with guilt and tradition and the approaching of death and all the rest of the stuff that we all carry on our backs.

Every actor is exactly right and spot-on in this film, but Javier Bardem gives a truly magnificent performance in the title role of an illegal migrant labor and street-vendor manager-facilitator. He looks right now like the most likely winner of the festival’s Best Actor award just as Biutiful itself seems well-positioned right now to take the Palme D’Or.

It starts out brilliantly, and then slips into a longish character-introducing, character-building, filling-in-the-details phase that goes on for a 90 minutes or so, and then — bit by bit, and then in increasing increments — it starts to emotionally kick in. And that’s when I knew it was delivering something special.

I have to stop writing because the press conference is just starting.

  • bfm

    Wow. Sounds brilliant.

  • Jonathan Spuij

    Sounds like a winner. How about Oscar chances?

  • Hip Hop Homey

    I love Bardem in everything he does it seems. that being said, I am cautious about this pic. No offense, Wells, but you touted BABEL to the heavens and it was so drab and awful.

  • Jeffrey Wells

    Babel was NOT drab and awful, you right-wing insect.

  • Bob Violence

    yeah that was understating things

  • Hip Hop Homey

    Where do I come across as right wing? Come on, Jeff, BABEL really turned you on? For real? Sorry, but the dude is a one trick pony but I will see this new flick, but only for Bardem who is so awesome.

  • COCO

    This one sounds like a keeper…Thanks Jeff.

  • MartinBlank

    Amores Perros is one of the most brilliant debuts in film history, but everything since has been a rehash. Babel — and I am a strident liberal, thanks — was an essenceless exercise in characters doing the stupidest things possible in service of the Big Point that nobody communicates.

  • DiscoNap

    “It starts out brilliantly, and then slips into a longish character-introducing, character-building, filling-in-the-details phase that goes on for a 90 minutes or so, and then — bit by bit, and then in increasing increments –”

    Wait, how long is this thing? Still very excited. And Babel was uneven but it was a tough and ultimately devastating movie. People who dismiss it are trolls.

  • Bob Violence

    devastatingly bad lol

  • Yer

    Well Babel was one of the worst films I saw in 2006 or possible of the decade, but he has dropped the screenwriter he worked on his first 3 films with so maybe this one will be different.

  • Peacenik

    Inarritu makes challenging and diffiicult films. They are not for everyone. If you prefer super heroes, sci fi and big action films so be it. I love his films. I thought that Babel was outstanding. I can’t wait to see Biutiful.

  • Yer

    Right so far the resulting defense of Babel has been that people who don’t like it are either: right wing, trolls, or prefer mindless super hero film. I don’t see how your viewpoints are any less narrow than the supposed ones you impose on its detractors.

  • TulseLuper

    I’m with Yer all the way. I thought Amores Perros was brilliant but 21 Grams and especially Babel were ponderous, self-important nonsense. I’ll give Biutiful a chance because I think Inarritu is a talented filmmaker and there’s always the possibility that he’ll make a great film, but get the fuck over yourself, Wells and Peacenik. You can dislike a festival darling without being labeled a simpleton.

  • actionman

    cant wait to see biutiful

    21 grams is still his fines piece of work

  • actionman


  • JohnCope

    I don’t know. The impression I’m getting from the other early reviews is mostly negative.

    And Inarritu’s best film is still his BMW short.

    Also, it sounds to me like A Screaming Man is the one getting ideally positioned to take the Palme.

  • lazarus

    I really liked parts of Babel, and there were parts I thought were terrible. For me, the pure cinema scenes (the deaf girl at the dance club, the Mexican wedding) worked the best. Overall it was a bit of a mess but not a travesty on the level of Crash as some people would have it.

  • Mr. Sheldrake

    This very liberal cinephile thinks that Babel was embarrassingly bad — contrived, manipulative, and just plain silly. I laughed out loud at several points during the proceedings.

    I’ve never heard of it appealing to anyone outside of decidedly middlebrow, elderly types who venture in to “the city” to catch whatever pseudo-arthouse claptrap Landmark happens to be shoveling.

  • Robert Cashill

    You don’t have to be a lumpen, tea-bagging TRANSFORMERS fan to find Inarritu a problematic filmmaker, at best. I can’t imagine sitting through another of his movies twice to learn that high or low we are all somehow, glumly, melodramatically, preposterously connected. That said Bardem will probably get me into the theater, misgivings and that awful title aside.

  • Sean

    Critic Mike D’Angelo coined a new word on Twitter (@gemko) as a result of this screening: Baythos. His write-up should be up at tomorrow.

  • Momo

    I’m looking forward to this. Count me in as another Bardem fan. People need to check out ‘Lunes al sol’ and ‘Mar Adentro’ if you haven’t already.

    I guess we have a winner here although the Mike Leigh film might be really good too.

    Jeff, what about the Kitano Takeshi film?

  • Bob Violence

    Jeff, what about the Kitano Takeshi film?

    I think you’re on the wrong site

  • Irving Thalberg

    Just thought I’d add to the roll call of liberal cinephiles who found BABEL, yes, drab, awful and insufferable. I think Lazarus made a telling comparison when he raised the spectre of CRASH as part of the discussion. Clearly, Inarritu has a deeper sense and command of composition, performance and montage than the glorified after-school-special auteur better known as Haggis, but that said both bodies of work seem to get off wallowing in self-important (and self-imposed) misery, all the while making philosophical observations (Pain is universal! We are all connected in a web of bittersweet suffering!) that would fit in nicely in a selection of the world’s worst high school poetry.

    Bottom line: while I can agree that Innaritu has displayed some gifts for working within the cinematic idiom, the end to which he relentlessly uses those gifts is, frankly, not just repetitious but embarrassing. And yeah, I guess I don’t quite understand how pointing out that the (rather sanctimonious) idol is a false one makes me or anyone else “right wing,” but you keep painting with those broad brushes you love so well, Mr. Wells. Godspeed, black emperor!

  • Film Dweeb

    I bet Inarritu sees the beauty in hip hop homies and Latino pachyderms.

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