AMORES PERROS —–from 2000, the first feature film from director Alejandro González Iñárritu, an in-your-face triptych anthology look at fate intersecting with love to indelibly mark the lives of a disparate group of characters who cross paths in modern Mexico City. Superbly done but unrelentingly harsh and brutal, it packs a wallop if you can stick with it through a catalogue of miseries. Running 153 minutes, the three parts are entitled Octavio y Susana, Daniel y Valeria and El Chivo y Maru. Animals and an automobile accident connect people who would otherwise never meet and sever them from respective destinies.
Octavio (Gael García Bernal) loves ‘Susanna’ (Vanessa Bauche), married to his abusive brother ‘Ramiro’ (Marco Pérez). Ramiro has a job but moonlights as an armed robber. Octavio uses the family Rottweiler in dogfights to raise money so he and Susanna can bolt. Much higher up the economic ladder, fashion supermodel ‘Valeria’ (Goya Toledo) and her married boyfriend ‘Daniel’ (Álvaro Guerrero), a magazine publisher, seem to have it made with a swanky apartment for them to share with Valeria’s beloved pooch ‘Ritchie’. Way back down the lifestyle scale, street vagrant ‘El Chivo’ (Emilio Echevarría), once a notorious hitman and ex-guerrilla, seeks to reconnect with his daughter, but lives alone in squalor with a doting menagerie of mongrel dogs. Saying anymore does injustice to the labyrinthine plot, which the director and his writer Guillermo Arriaga weave back & forth in time so as to set the people—and their pets—on a collision track that will drastically remake their circumstances and dreams.
“You and your plans. You know what my grandmother used to say? If you want to make God laugh… tell Him your plans.”
If the idea of cruel dog-fighting puts you off, you’ve got company;I didn’t think I’d make it through the first segment, not just because of the bloody action but the unpleasant characters. Rest assured, the animal action was staged with great care to not hurt any of the stunt-dogs (it looks real, but that’s all), but animal lovers are going to have a hard time. The awful dilemma that’s delivered upon Valeria and Daniel is no picnic, but makes compelling viewing, and the final segment with El Chivo brings things to a haunting conclusion.
The movie is grueling, but it stays with you afterwards in appreciation for how well it was crafted. Acting is faultless, with special nods going to Toledo and Echevarría. Superior cinematography credits Rodrigo Prieto, the pulsing score is from Gustavo Santaolalla. Nominated for the Oscar for Best Foreign Film (lost to the classic Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), the $2,400,000 cost was vanquished by a gross of $20,900,000.
With Rodrigo Murray, Gustavo Sánchez Parra, Jorge Salinas, Humberto Busto, Dagoberto Gama, José Sefami.