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,-10WilmWmilWmpo4Mm.4owww. ,4,AWftmimw, WMIOWyMMWomw BOOKS & THE CULTURE VRT3 0 Amores Perros Directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Hiarritu .of long ago we tried to convince an acquain tancea genteel Mexico City woman with a high ranking job at a govern ment financial institutibnto see Amores Perros \(Love’s a The first feature-length film by 37-year-old director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu has received enthusiastic reviews, won awards at Cannes, was nominated for a Golden Globe, and is the first Mexican film to be nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Film in more than 25 years. Nevertheless, our friend was not interested: “Why should I see poverty and squalor, when I go to the movies to have fiin,” she responded. Pues, si. But it is precisely the film’s unrelenting depiction of poverty and the nature of that poverty, that makes it a must-see. Unlike the 1985 film Los by Felipe Cazals, about a woman who kills her children because she can’t support them, or Luis Builuel’s clasic 1950 film, Los Gonzalez Iluirritu does not focus on those living in “extreme poverty”the corrugated metal-roofed shacks precariously perched on hillsides around the great metropolis or skeletal Indian village conununities where it’s hard to find a handful of beans or “an aspirin,” to borrow a phrase from Subcomandante Marcos. Instead, he sets his sights on the material and emotional pauperism that plagues inhabitants of mega-cities from Mexico City to London to Los Angeles and portrays a savagery based on human actions of corrupt public officials. The screenplay by Gonzalez Ifiarritu and Guillermo Arriaga \(who has taught screenwriting at several Mexican uniunrelated stories and characters brought together by a car accident.The film does not follow a linear structure; events play over and over from the points of view of different characters. Although the quality of the three stories varies consider-. ably, overall the strength of the screenplay is enough to bring Amores Perros up a notch when compared to other recent Mexican films such as Santitos, based on the’ novel by Maria Amparo Escand6n, or Sexo, pudor y lagrimas \(Sex, shame a pseudo-hip take on relationship angst in upper-middle-class Mexico City that was well-received by audiences here. Artistically it is much more significant than La Ley de Herodes, a spoof on the political regime that ruled Mexico for decades, and which attracted a great deal of press interest because of the government’s clumsy attempts at censorship. Amores Perros opens with the most superbly shot car chase and crash in Mexican cinematic history.The first narrativethe most distressing, as well as the most dramatically compellingis a small gem of real-life authenticity, without a hint of tired and trite “docudrama.” It is the story of Octavio and his elder brother Ramiro, a lout who has taken to holding up drugstores. They all live together in a small house in one of Mexico City’s countless nondescript, barren lower-class neighborhoods, along with their mother, Raniiro’s teen-aged wife and baby, and a huge black Rottweiler that belongs to , the two brothers. Dogs are ever-present in the film, a reflection on their Masters, and Gonzalez Iliarritu’s metaphor for life and love. When the story begins, Octavio is already in love with his sister-in-law, Susana. He is obsessed by her and cannot help listening to the sounds of sexual activity going on in the room next to him. Nor can he escape from the verbal abuse which Ramiro inflicts on her. Through a “lucky” event Octavio finds out that his dog is good at dogfights, which are illegal in Mexico but apparently thriving. His rivalry with Ramiro plays out in brutal fights between the Rottweiler and a series of canine opponents. For anyone who knows Mexico City, Octavio’s punk friends in the barrio and his drug-dealer brother ring true. “We kid you not,” Gonzalez Ifiarritu and Arriaga seem to be saying, “This is for real, and it’s happening right now, a few blocks from where you live”part of the film’s immense appeal among adolescents and young adults in. Mexico. The “second” narrative is also a doomed love story, borrowing from the world of modeling and advertising. Valeria is a flashy, neurotic model, Daniel a middle-aged magazine editor who abandons his wife and children. Valeria, in a cast, moves to Daniel’s new apartment and Fifi, her dog, falls through the wooden floor and is trapped underneath, where the sounds of big rats prevail. This is the weakest part of the movie. The acting is empty and Gonzalez Iikirritu simply asks too much of viewers in terms of willful suspension of disbelief. Finally, there is the story of El Chivo guerrilla-turned-aging-street-bum-andruthless-paid-assassin. El Chivo, superbly portrayed by Emilio Echevarria, navi Love’s a Bitch BY ANGELA MOSCARELLA AND JAVIER RAMIREZ 18 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 3/30/01