Amores Perros

(Love's A Bitch)

Amores Perros roughly translates to both 'dog's love' and 'love's a bitch.' Both figure prominently in the three interwoven stories within the movie. A violent car accident takes place at the beginning of Amores Perros. First time director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu then jumps back and forth to show how the accident occurred, and the repurcussions of the accident. The jumping around, violence, and three stories immediately bring to mind Pulp Fiction, but there are deeper differences that help establish this as an original film and not rip-off. Amores Perros was the Mexican entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 2000 Academy Awards, and it lost to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Through each story, Inarritu holds steadfastly to his double themes.

The least compelling story in Guillermo Arriaga's (A Sweet Scent of Death) concerns Daniel (Alvaro Guerrero, The Come-On) and Valeria (Goya Toledo, The Stranger). It is the worst not because it is bad, but because the others are much better. Daniel is having an affair with Valeria, a popular model for a new perfume. He leaves his wife to move in with Valeria and her dog. In Octavio and Susanna, Octavio (Gael Garcia Bernal, Dreaming of Julia) loves after his sister-in-law Susanna (Vanessa Bauche, One Man's Hero). He wants to escape the poverty he and his family live in. He discovers the world of dog fighting, and begins participating with his dog Cofi. Cofi is successful, yielding Octavio a large sum of money.

The final story concerns El Chivo (Emilio Echevarria, An Eruption of Ice), a homeless man. He owns many dogs, and wanders the streets during the day. He once was a revolutionary, and now has an assignment to assassinate a businessman's brother and partner. This story drags near the middle, but draws the most important conclusions. In each of the stories, at least one of the principle characters has a deep love for somebody else (with the El Chivo story covering this in triplicate). The beginning of the relationship may seem good, but each one turns out very differently than what each person initially expected. The ramification of this realization causes profound changes in each person. Rather than have each story stand independently, portions of the other two will appear while the other has the spotlight. Instead of distracting the viewer, this actually complements the current main story and gives a larger sense of context.

Inarritu's style is bold and raw. He favors close-up, gritty shots. The scenes of dog fighting are brief, but intense (a large disclaimer stating that no animals were harmed opens the movie). Arriaga and Inarritu use the car crash as a catalyst. This event indelibly changes the lives of the people involved. It forces them to reassess their lives and decide what to do moving forward. The role that the dogs play is also important. Much like the car crash, the dog in each story (sometimes the same dog across stories) will do something unexpected. Whether it Octavio discovering Cofi's aptitude for fighting or Valeria's dog running underneath the floorboards, each story somehow revolves around the actions of the dogs. In the end, Inarritu focuses on issues like love and trust, and what happens when fantasies of those two meet with reality. The result is bittersweet and poignant.

Mongoose Rates It: Pretty Good.
2 hours, 33 minutes, Spanish with English subtitles, Rated R for violence/gore, language, and sexuality.

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