Friday, January 26, 2007

MovieWatch: "Babel"

Director: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
Fien Print Rating (Out of 100): 48
In a Nutshell: With good ol' fashioned porn porn, you know what you're getting as an end result. What, I'm tempted to wonder, is the intended end result of misery porn like "Babel" and who are the soft-headed people who get off on this stuff? You know how in "American Beauty," the Wes Bentley character has that ultra cheesy moment with the plastic bag and he gasps, "Sometimes... there's... so... much... beauty... in... the... world... I... feel... like... I... can't... take... it..." "Babel" like the very opposite of that, like Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu is so overwhelmed by all the misery in the world that he just can't take it. The movie is about the tapestry of tragedy and miscommunication that tie us all together, as if the common thread of globalism in the 21st Century were basically a primal wail of discontent and unease. Blech.

"Babel" wouldn't be so insufferable and unbearable an experience if Inarritu weren't such a clearly gifted filmmaker. That's the quality that sets "Babel" apart from "Crash," frankly -- The web of coincidences, petty ironies and caricatured characters here are presented by a man of cinematic talent with an awareness of the medium. That's why "Crash" is laughable and "Babel" is harder to dismiss, but also harder to sit through. Like "Amores Perros" and "21 Grams" before it, "Babel" is well-acted across the board (the presence of movie stars Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett in one narrative is distracting, but becomes an imbedded commentary about the artistic imperialism and entitlement of Hollywood) and thanks to DP Rodrigo Prieto, it looks great. It's also numbing from the end of the first scene as two Moroccan boys playing around with a rifle set off a chain of unhappiness. I spent so much time dreading the next misfortune, but I wasn't invested in any of these people or their plights. They were pawns being pushed around a board by screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga, whose "Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada" script was both his best crafted and most humane (and a better meditation on linguistic and cultural borders, frankly).

Was this misery porn supposed to yield catharsis? I got no release. It's a dirge. A mood piece with only one tone. Is it your best picture Oscar winner?

I can't help but find it sad that of the 2006 films by the Three Amigos (Inarritu plus Guillermo del Toro and Alfonso Cuaron), *this* is the one nominated for best director and best picture. Sigh.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous5:23 PM

    I could not agree with you more. Great review, it perfectly states everything I felt when I left the theater but was unable to put into words.

    (Also, props for calling Crash laughable. After viewing that film I was angry, but not for the reasons Paul Haggis wanted me to be.)