Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Babel

by Nick
Summer, two years ago, I was standing in the guest apartments of the Stockholm Royal Palace, doing my job as a guard, when I see this guy coming over to my side with a kid on his shoulders. This is against regulations, and I'll have to tell him to drop the boy - we had a kid get her head enmeshed in one of the chandeliers once. I hate doing it, but it's my job. I see the guy coming closer, and I think, of course, it's Alejandro González Iñárritu.

I loved Amores Perros, it's still one of my favorite films, and I'd seen 21 grams the month before that. I want to go over to the guy, thank him, tell him what a huge fan I am, tell the boy in the little Spanish I still know that his dad is a truly awesome guy, already one of my favorite directors, and that he should be proud.

But I also think, the guy is on vacation, he wants a break, be himself, no pressure, just enjoy his stay here. So I walk over to him and say,

"I'm sorry, sir, but you're not allowed to have children on your shoulders here. There have been accidents."

He looks at me, goes "Yeah, man, sure. Sorry." and lifts the boy off, who's around five, and is looking at me with these big sulking eyes. His father is giving him a look of 'it's not me, it's that guy.' I can just look on impassively.

Then they walked away. Needless to say, doubt I'll ever see them again.

What does this have to do with the film? Not much, maybe it's the point of the film. And also because I felt a little sympathy with the border patrol of the film.

I can talk all you want about the qualities of the film, the raw human performances of all involved, the great sequences, powerful scenes, Prietos cinematography, etc. But what really determines whether you'll like the film or not is whether you believe, or want to believe, that a boy in Marocco has anything to do with a teenaged girl in Japan. Arriaga and Iñarritu demand a lot from the viewer, and what you get from the film depends on how many threads you pick up, or whether you see any threads at all.

I found the film powerful, with many individual parts standing out, but also loose. I really respect them for trying to make a contemporary drama that fits in and tries to say something about the current era of globalisation. But what do they say in the end except very vague, albeit universal, things? Maybe I was in the wrong mood.

But I'd love to see it again.

7 Comments:

Blogger Nick said...

P.S. Regarding what the film has to say in the end, it does deliver a nice kick towards American foreign policy. At the same time, it's so easy to do.

11/01/2006 07:10:00 PM  
Blogger Count Olaf said...

A kick like giving it a leg up? Or a beat down? Are there some positives amidst the negatives....

11/01/2006 07:33:00 PM  
Blogger Nick said...

I suppose it depends on your political view ;)

11/01/2006 07:40:00 PM  
Blogger Brian said...

Saw it tonight.

I can totally believe that some kid in Morocco is connected to a girl in Japan, but I'm not sure the movie made the case. Ironically, I think that the connection was weakened by the attempt to explain the link between the two (i.e., the rifle), because ... well, it didn't matter. It felt like an attempt to explain something that didn't need explaining, and a bad attempt at that.

Hope that makes sense. Trying to think of a good analogy but can't.

Also, I didn't think much of the Mexico storyline. I have very little patience for plot points that depend on people doing incredibly stupid things for no reason at all. I know people do stupid things but I just can't see Santiago's reaction to the situation as credible.

But, I thought the Pitt-Blanchett storyline was strong across the board. An I did think the Japanese storyline and the storyline about the Moroccan kids were great on their own, even if I'm not sure they belonged in the same movie.

11/05/2006 01:08:00 AM  
Blogger Nick said...

No, I totally get where you're coming from. Overall, among people I've talked to, it seems to suffer from not adding up to the sum of its parts. All of the stories are strong by themselves (even the Mexican one to me, though I agree that was an arbitrary stupidity), but the lack of a proper, binding, emotionally or thematically satisfying thread through all the separate stories is what keeps the film from holding together.

In a film as dependent, as demanding, on that as this one, it brings the whole thing down.

11/07/2006 11:06:00 AM  
Blogger Brian said...

the lack of a proper, binding, emotionally or thematically satisfying thread through all the separate stories is what keeps the film from holding together

Yeah, but it's so close (ignoring the misguided Mexico episode). I can see it all there, like shoes that are all laced up but still need to be tied. A shame, really.

11/07/2006 11:16:00 AM  
Blogger Nick said...

Still, a very good movie. One should be grateful for that, at least.

11/07/2006 11:31:00 AM  

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