October 27, 2006


Filed under: movies — ted @ 12:00 pm

I haven’t seen Babel yet, and won’t until at least next week, but I read two superb reviews this morning, and they have me fantastically intrigued.

What interests me in Babel is not so much that I think I’m going to like it — I did not particularly like Amores Peros, and very much disliked 21 Grams, the two previous collaborations between this screenwriter and director — but what it means on a larger scale, namely, as an example of a growing form of movie-making and storytelling.

First, there’s this from A. O. Scott’s marvelous review in the Times:

The splintered, jigsaw-puzzle structure of “Babel” will be familiar to viewers who have seen “Amores Perros” or “21 Grams,” the other two features Mr. Arriaga and Mr. González Iñárritu have made together. Indeed, this movie belongs to an increasingly common, as yet unnamed genre — “Crash” is perhaps the most prominent recent example — in which drama is created by the juxtaposition of distinct stories, rather than by the progress of a single narrative arc.

Perhaps the most common feature of movies of this kind is that they are more interested in fate than in psychology. The people in “Babel” behave irrationally — if often quite predictably — but any control they appear to have over their own lives is illusory. They suffer unequally and unfairly, paying disproportionately for their own mistakes and for the whims of chance and the laws of global capitalism.

Throw another movie I hated — Crash — into the mix. Then add this reflection from Andrew O’Hehir’s review in Salon:

It’s the kind of electrifying, almost ecstatic moment that reveals Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu (“Amores Perros,” “21 Grams”) as one of the purest talents to emerge in this medium since Martin Scorsese. Beyond cinematic daring, the nightclub scene seems to reflect or capture, if only for an instant, the themes that González Iñárritu and screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga fumble with over the course of this sprawling two-hour-plus film. We are all connected, your experiences of joy and pain are closely akin to mine, but we can only pierce each other’s consciousness in fleeting, split-second increments.

Personally, I believe all that, or I think I do. But the risk that “Babel” takes, in laboriously and lovingly connecting the private tragedies of four families in four different countries, is turning that observation, which may be lovely as a momentary flash of insight, into a stoned college freshman’s profound theory about the universe. Tremendous resources have been expended here so that Cate Blanchett can lie on a dirt floor and moan, while we ponder why we can’t all get along, and whether we aren’t all the same under the skin.

I’ll leave it at that for now. Suffice to say I can’t wait to see Babel, and form a genuine opinion about all of this…



  1. The director came to our school and spoke. One of my friends got a pic of him.

    Comment by sniv — October 29, 2006 @ 6:34 pm

  2. […] A few days ago I posted clippings from reviews of Babel, the upcoming movie by Alejandro González Iñárritu. A.O. Scott of the Times forwarded that Babel “belongs to an increasingly common, as yet unnamed genre — “Crash” is perhaps the most prominent recent example — in which drama is created by the juxtaposition of distinct stories, rather than by the progress of a single narrative arc.” This was immensely interesting to me, and I’ve been looking for it in other movies of late. […]

    Pingback by 2006 November 02 « edwardhenry — November 2, 2006 @ 5:16 pm

  3. FYI y’all – Innaritu’s AMORES PEROS proceeded CRASH. He inspired many of the risks Hollywood took – You pop culture suckers need to get out more…

    Now that we’ve established this director’s prescient gifts, let’s examine the cynical comments about his philosophical vision… God help us if ya’ll can’t see that his innocence is right on – supported by a visual artistry that many of you can’t even put words to. Innaritu has painted a picture of our ineptitude and salvation that is poetic and challenging and disturbing and no matter how many faults you may find with his logic – he gotcha. He got us. And showed us a picture of that patriarchal God we’ve been worshipping, perhaps mistakenly, for far too long. Why wouldn’t He let us build a tower to heaven? Did he wish suffering upon us? Apparently so – otherwise why would He doom us to miscomunication? Not a kind Father. We’re all ready for more kindness… otherwise- hmmm… you know….

    It’s an important step for us to take responsibility for it ourselves, quite another if we let Providence take fate away from us in a punishing way. Innaritu and Arrilag provide us with release and an opportunity to change…

    I’ve said my peace.

    Comment by terryt — December 5, 2006 @ 4:37 pm

  4. FYI, I’m well aware that Amores Perros preceded Crash; I saw the former quite some time ago. While I liked the film on the most basic levels, I was for the most part unimpressed — which I mentioned in my post.

    I agree that Innaritu possesses a fair amount of technical artistry, which is certainly the best thing about all three of his movies. The problem, which I attempted to explain in my review of the film, is that the ideas, characters, and situations he portrays in his films are underwhelming. Perhaps his “innocence” is a problem, a product of simplemindedness, not a benefit as you seem to think. I have no desire to disparage the man himself, since his heart seems to be in the right place — perhaps this is what you mean — but the films that he makes, while technically complex, and not sufficiently sophisticated as far as observation and philosophy are concerned. This is precisely what I am faulting him for.

    Actually, he didn’t “get me,” which is exactly what I was hoping he would do. I agree wholeheartedly with much of your comment, namely that we have been worshiping a cruel God for too long, and need to be more kind to one another, take responsibility, etc. But Babel didn’t really communicate this — I don’t remember anything about God, especially not a “patriarchal God,” being mentioned or communicated in the film (other than the title). It did highlight the frustrations of people who were unable to communicate or connect with those around them, and it was heartbreaking to watch, but that was as deep as it went.

    Comment by edwardhenry — December 5, 2006 @ 5:17 pm

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