Biutiful (2010)

“Biutiful” (2010)

IMDb

Faces

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

It’s always a special night when you move to watch the newest film of one of the best directors working at the moment. Not only will you see something you’d never seen by someone whose work affects your soul, but you’re also seeing something that may be the newest improvement in the still recent tradition of cinema, as an art of visual narrative. Iñarritu produces such a state in me. Some of his previous work changed me in ways i can’t understand. I’ll always want to see what he’s got for me.

Here we had an important thing going on. He departed from his long time collaborator, Arriaga. Apparently, their previous collaborations took the best out of their personal relationship. I imagine the heaviness and pain of pulling out such dense rich narratives like the trilogy that came before this film was draining and emptied their relation. Arriaga’s absence gets noticed here. We get to be less aware of the structure, we get less engaged by how the film develops. There is no apparent higher structure to frame the lives we follow. Arriaga provided the films with a noir sense of fate, where every character sat. Well, i suppose we find it here, but in a more rough, less assumed way. No one doubts that every character in this film (even the Chinese bosses) lives in a world whose rules he or she don’t understand, less even control. That’s the first interesting thing here. We have the city as the defined board where the game is played. The sense of (urban) placement tells us the game is being played, but we never get to see anyone higher than a simple pawn. I think when you take the story as it is, you can place this along with Blindness, for the pessimism, for the hopeless view on the world. The city, Barcelona, is shown with a grittiness and darkness that actually is not in its superficial face, although some scenes (like the black people running from the police with fake purses) are actually a part of its routine. But nothing of what we see here is a told at a first level of observation, so we don’t have the city of Gaudí here, we have a city of oppressed, manipulated by an unknown oppressor.

(**spoilers here**) This world is complex and deceiving. Uxbal seems to control the Chinese boss, but we know he is manipulated by his man lover, whose homosexuality is not accepted by the other’s family. Maramba drowns Uxbal’s rejections on the bed of his brother, as her madness progressively moves her away from her children. But Uxbal will be dead and knows it, plus he also knows what’s “on the other side”. He is just as drowned in his own unavoidable destiny as the Chinese workers that he thinks he helps (until he kills them!). So is Ige, who knows somehow she can’t leave Barcelona and have a future; she’s drowned in her fate, and money can’t change it. And so are Uxbal’s children, whose fate depends on the luck and will of those who in turn are responsible for their upbringing: their father will die, their mother is unreliable, and we are only hinted that Ige will become their mother figure.

But all this is only secondary, compared to the real reason why i think you should watch this film: the faces. All the darkness, all the pus that comes sickly out of the wounds of these people only really matters anything because it is mirrored in the “biutiful” faces of absolutely every character. That’s what the incredible first scene gives us: the meeting between two faces, Bardem (what an actor he finally became!) and the one we come later to find out to be his late father. Notice how the close-ups of the faces are the key to every emotional response you give to the film. Notice how it’s the broken smiles of Mateo, or Maramba’s powerless looks that make your heart break. Notice how those faces are framed by Iñarritu (and his incredible cinematographer!), always differently, according to the face of every actor. Bardem usually three quarters. But the face i’ll always remember is that of Ana. According to IMDb this was her first film, and if it is her last, i still will have reasons to remember her. I’m betting she was chosen based on her smile, that of disillusioned innocence, of broken childhood. So beautiful, so sad. So much pain, in such a chaotic noir world. This is great film writing, great film making. I’m wondering how it will fit in my dreams.

My opinion: 4/5

This comment on IMDb

 

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