on December 14, 2010
If Mr. Iñárritu went to 3 continents to film the great story of BABEL, his latest film, BIUTIFUL is bringing people from 3 continents to one amazing place; the underworld of Barcelona. I saw this well crafted art film a few days ago in Los Angeles (Mr.Iñárritu and Bradem were present) and wanted to share with you my take on this important, agonizing and remarkable picture. It will take you to places seldom explored by others, it will set in motion untapped feelings, it will make you hate or love it, it will make you talk about it.
Mr. Bardem is masterfully playing Uxbal and with him we slowly and painfully descend into Hades, human misery and his personal hell. The complex character of Uxbal is central for the film and through his journey we meet some of the most unusual characters, places and situations. There is an action/high energy scene of police chasing drug dealers in center of Barcelona, remarkably filmed by the very talented Rodrigo Prieto; it will stay with me for a long time.
Many call BIUTIFUL "a love story between a father and his children", but it is much much more than that. Maybe this line will sell a few extra tickets, but it is more about a extremely dysfunctional modern "accidental" family. The mother, Marambra is superbly played by newcomer Maricel Álvarez, and the children are ever so patient, innocent and understanding.
Kindness, hope, goodwill and humanity is not missing in Biutiful, it is ever-present in the daily dealings of Uxbal who's psyche we enter from the very beautiful and poetic beginning of the film.
See BIUTIFUL with an open heart and mind, let yourself go places you never wanted to go, places you only watch on the evening news.
My tag line for BIUTIFUL: "You don't choose your family. We all belong to somebody, but to belong to Uxbal and Marambra, is both a blessing and a curse."
It's all about death and dying. We can't get away from that, nor avoid it.
Most European directors take much longer to develop character in films than American directors. There are scenes in this film that wordlessly drag on, with panning shots that are longer than what American film directors recommend. But there is nothing wrong with that. This just means it takes longer to watch a European movie and this artpiece is no different.
Uxbal (Javier Bardem) plays the middleman for a counterfeit operation in Barcelona. He works for a few crooked Chinese who manipulate Africans and Chinese who come into the country illegally to work for pennies a day. Uxbal takes his share of the money but he also has a soft heart for the people who live in dark, musty cold basements.
His wife is a drug-dependent, bi-polar prostitute who only thinks about the next trick. Her goal in life is to have fun, despite her two children that love her very much. Unfortunately, Uxbal lovers her, too, and this uneven chemistry gleams throughout this movie.
We learn right away there is something wrong with Uxbal. He is in the late stages of prostate cancer, and his life is flashing him by throughout this movie. He lives what time he has left to redeem himself among the people he also took advantage of earlier, realizing there are many victims left behind doing the work that he does.
Shot in and around Barcelona's slums, there's a lot of touching cinematography in this movie. Smoggy city panoramas, gushing ocean waves, whispering cold mountain pines and loud street scenes that want to take over your auditory nerves. Take all that out and you have a more American-style movie with action and romp but less story and plot.
This is not a movie to watch when depressed, or while grieving the loss of a loved one. There is more to this movie than what I have just posted, but in the end of this 2:18 hour movie (not including the ten minutes of credits in the end), this is one movie that will haunt your senses for a while.
Crashing waves, whispering pines, dying owls that spit up hairballs. This is life in the real sense.
I rented this via the Amazon Instant Video. I had so many problems watching this movie without it constantly stopping to reload. This may be the last time I rent a movie this way. Great movie, horrible presentation.
on February 6, 2011
Alejandro Innaritu has directed 4 movies so far, Biutiful being the latest, and all 4 of them are solid. There is great substance in them all. Every film of his has several complex, interknit storylines, each with detailed narratives, and nuances. Innaritu potrays his astounding skill and capability of interlinking several of these, cumulating into an exhilarating panoramic vision, which is a feast to watch.
Innaritu has always casted great actors for his films, such as Gael Garcia in Babel & Amores Perros, Sean Penn & Benicio Del Toro in 21 Grams and Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett & Rinko Kikuchi in Babel. Here, there has been much praise for Javier Bardem's potrayal of the low-life criminal, trying to make ends meet for his family, and nearing his death very soon, and it is all very well deserved. Javier Bardem is a remarkable actor, portraying his characters with simplicity, yet with layers of complexity.
*Might contain spoilers below*
The most interesting characteristic of his films, is the use of regional languages & characters to a very natural degree. Cheng Tai Shen, playing the role of the Chinese syndicate businessman, uses spanish and chinese with much fluency and ease, which I found remarkable. Just as captivating is the role played by Diaryatou Daff, of an african immigrant woman, who is caught in the disturbance of her husband's involvement in the underground drug racket, and his deportation.
The journey for Uxbal (Bardem) is devastating, and tragic, yet fulfilling in a way, since his transition into the afterlife is shown to be one of serene, his departure from his family implying painful repercussions, nonetheless, which is what the viewer is left to come to terms with, in the end.
Another element or tool which the director uses, concurrent to his previous films, is the use of the strong background score and music. Babel had excellent score from the maestro Gustavo Santaolalla, and so does Biutiful. The use of progressive dance tracks such as The Joker (ATFC Remix) by Fatboy Slim in Babel, and Shudder/King of Snake by Underworld in Biutiful, intensify the mood and atmosphere of the films, combined with remarkable camera-work and cinematography, reveal the underbelly of cities such as Japan, and Barcelona, where city-life is portrayed near perfectly, and contrasted with varying emotions that the characters feel.
This film, is as successful as it's predecessors, thanks to the gifted Innaritu, and his muse Bardem this time around, who have both wonderfully captured the nuances and depth of the characters and the intricate story that is the driving force behind this masterfully complex & captivating movie.
Chalk up another movie that I don't think I ever want to see again. Not because it's a bad movie. In fact, it's a very good movie. Javier Bardem proves once again he is one of the best actors working today. He plays a low level facilitator who acts as a middle man to supply non-union workers to various construction trades in Barcelona. He does this by supplying illegal Chinese and African aliens. This is his job so he takes the payoffs, part of which goes to the authorities, especially the police that look the other way. He also is responsible for a daughter about 12 and a son about 7 as his estranged wife is bipolar and a sometime addict. Uxbal (Bardem), if he doesn't have enough problems, is diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer. Oh yeah, he can also talk to the dead, at least the recent dead who haven't quite made the journey away from their physical self. This is actually a second job as he often gets paid to relay the final words. There are also a lot of characters in the story including 2 Chinese gay dudes, one of which has a house full of family. Since this is Alejandro Gonzalez Inarrutu putting this all together, I guess we shouldn't be too surprised by the plot overload. The movie is a well done technical achievement but the scenes and subject matter are grim and overly depressing. We don't get much of a break from the despair and bleak lives of everyone involved. The setting is the city slums and after two and a half hours I wanted out. Bardem is a wonder to watch and is in virtually every frame. He is aided nicely by Maricel Alvarez as his skanky wife. In the end Uxbal tries to do the right thing and plan for his demise and the ultimate care of his children. In a touching scene with his daughter he tells her to please remember him. Isn't that what we all want ultimately?
on February 12, 2015
The acting in this movie is stellar and really makes the film. Every single cast member (the mains, the children, the immigrant workers, etc) turned in heart breaking and nuanced performances. I was not a Javier Bardem fan before this movie, but he was magnificent. The emotional scenes with him and his children in the film (especially the daughter ) will haunt you.
The film is long and emotional. Perhaps a little too long? Close to the end, I was hoping for the protagonist to pass away quickly just to end his suffering.
That's the kind of ride this film takes you on so be prepared.
Nominated for Oscar's Best Actor in 2010 for his gritty character Uxbal, Javier Bardem never fails to disappoint, but the Oscar went to Colin Firth for the The King's Speech. The film was nominated for Best Foreign Film, but lost to Denmark's In A Better World.
If you feel depressed with this film as some people have, then the director has done his job. You can't possibly feel good, with death looming and the thought of a father leaving his two children to an uncertain dismal world.
Uxbal, separated from his wife, an alcoholic, bipolar with other psychological hang-ups that include whoring around. He is a middle man for the crime world, the black market streets of Spain. He supports two young children in a slum-like apartment building. When he finds out he has prostate cancer, with months to live, he wants to do good for what he has become. He loves his children, but fears the thought of leaving his children to practically nobody, as their mother is a sad, pathetic and abusive.
With just over two hours, this film reaches its intended mark, to make the viewer feel for a man dying and leaving behind his beloved children. There is nothing pretty here, from the exploitative treatment of illegal cheap labor, making knockoffs in pitiful working conditions, sleeping on dirty mattresses in a cold warehouse. What one sees is the gritty, dark and seedy streets of Spain and the corruption up against death and love for family.
This is excellent storyline, well done, and brilliant performances by Javier Bardem and Maricel Alvarez, who plays his messed up wife, Maramba. ......Rizzo
on September 15, 2013
You can visit a city like Paris or London or Barcelona and be dazzled by the more well known, manicured sites and never know the darker sides of these sprawling metropolis. Having been to Barcelona at least 5 or 6 times, took the train to Sitges. In "Biutiful", I was introduced to a side of Barcelona that I just have never been to. Though it surely was lacking in the charm that you see in postcards, the barrios have their own distinct charm and flavor.
on March 23, 2014
First . . . be aware that this is a foreign film in Spanish without an English dubbed soundtrack. It does have English subtitling and in my Region A (North American) Blu-ray it's hard encoded into the film; it cannot be turned off. Folks that don't like films without an English sound track will have to be willing to set that aside or pass on this film. I've got a number of films like this so it doesn't bother me, but it does require paying closer attention visually.
It's easy to see why this film, set in the Barcelona slums, was nominated for several Oscars including Best Foreign Language Film. Javier Bardem,is phenomenal as the protagonist, Uxbal. (Bardem's breakthrough in US films was the psychopathic killer in the Coen Brothers "No Country for Old Men"; his role in this film is entirely different.) Director Alejandro Inarritu, who also collaborated on the screenplay, keeps a complex set of subplots well organized as Uxbal (Bardem) is diagnosed with terminal cancer with a couple months to live as his life is relentlessly unraveling around him very quickly. A father of two children separated from a bipolar alcoholic wife, he seeks through all this to get his affairs in order and make provisions for his children. The biblical Job comes to mind except anti-hero Uxbal is the opposite of righteous. He's deeply involved in several criminal endeavors including illegal Chinese immigrants working in a sweatshop making counterfeit goods and working major construction sites, and illegal African immigrants selling the counterfeit goods and illegal drugs on the streets as illegal sidewalk "vendors."
There is very little relief from the relentless onslaught of Uxbal's life coming apart at every turn. The real power of this film is how he perseveres through all of it, ultimately coming to terms with his immediately imminent death and his tenacity in ensuring his young children will be adequately cared for. For all its bleak darkness, this is the very bright beacon in the film. After viewing and having some time to think about it, IMHO Inarritu very deliberately did this to create as strong a counterpoise between the two as possible.
As with many European films, this one develops the plot, subplots and characters at a leisurely pace. Those accustomed to US films and film making may think it plodding, but it allows absorbing the complexities of the story and more cerebral consideration of its underlying themes than a faster pace would allow. This isn't an action film, it's about empathy and raw emotions. I'll eventually watch it again, but will need some respite before doing so.
on March 10, 2016
This was one of the most emotional, gut-wrenching movies I've ever seen. So many universal themes to this story that has so many sub-stories within it. Certainly worthy of the Academy Award nominations it earned.
on November 14, 2015
Other than Javier Bardem's excellent performance and the amazing performances by the other actors in this film, what I love about the film is the way everything is communicated through the cinematography and the subtext. This film isn't at all dialogue heavy - it is the perfect example of showing rather than telling. After all, isn't that what a motion picture supposed to do, tell a story through moving pictures first and foremost? I loved the use of symbolism not only in the images of the film but also in dialogue especially in the ending scene where Javier meets the father, much younger than him, that he never got to meet in life. The end of this film brings tears to my eyes every time I watch it. Ultimately, this film is about a man coming to grips with his own death, learning to let go of life, especially past mistakes and unhealthy relationships, and dying to meet the father he never got to meet in life. One of my favorite films!