Wednesday, 2 March 2011


If dead children aren’t enough for you, then how about a terminally ill Javier Bardem? In an adult nappy. Misery Week continues with Biutiful. This was one of those times where I sat in the cinema thinking, “I wish I was at home watching The Wild Bunch”.

It’s something of a tragedy that director Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu has parted company with long time collaborator, writer Guillermo Arriaga, with whom he made the superior Amores Perros, 21 Grams and Babel. Arriaga also scripted one of this reviewer’s favourites (and the directorial debut of Tommy Lee Jones), The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada. In relation to all the aforementioned ingeniously-crafted scripts, Biutiful is an uncomfortable reminder that something is absent from this story: namely “story”.

We ramble through a scuzzy-looking Barcelona with Javier Bardem who plays Uxbal, a low-level criminal involved in people trafficking and other scummy pursuits. He is also dying. (Well, boo hoo.) Call me shallow but what we don’t see is anything particularly exhilarating or exciting in this seamy Spanish underworld. Is it too much to ask, for just a few visceral thrills?

I suspect Barcelona’s tourist board are not fans of the film. This trail through the mean streets of Barcelona is made to look highly dangerous and all the interiors look spectacularly toxic. The director even manages to make Gaudi’s cathedral look like somewhere you’d wish to avoid.

[Amendment 08/03/11]
As an admittedly smug footnote this was included in the "Top Ten Most Boring Films of All Time" in The Sunday Times Culture section Sunday 6th March.

1 comment:

  1. Innaritu and Arriaga were already suffering from the law of diminishing returns before their divorce.'Amores Perros' was thrilling, full of energy and vibrancy. '21 Grams' was powerful but glum and earnest at the same time, propped up by compelling performances. 'Babel' was so far up it's own posterior it was being screened out of it's own nose.

    Their solo work appears to be heading in the saw direction. 'The Burning Plain' was a non-entity and the only positive word of mouth for this has stemmed from Javier Bardem's performance.

    Innaritu knows how to direct actors he just needs to get away from this
    glum- the true meaning of life is found through death - obsession.

    I hope misery week never ends.