Amores Perros (2001) dir. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
Starring Gael Garcia Bernal
Before “Babel”, there was “21 Grams,” and before that, “Amores Perros,” Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s first and arguably best film. “Amores Perros” was described by some critics as a Mexican “Pulp Fiction”, mainly because of the triptych/non-linear structure of the film. Though there are similarities, “Amores Perros” is unique and brilliant.
As with “Babel” and “21 Grams,” the film is structured as a series of interconnected storylines. The first is Octavio, a naive teenager, who’s in love with his older brother’s girlfriend. Octavio and his best friend get involved in an underground dog fighting ring with their new rottweiler. The dog fights are tough. I don’t know how they filmed those scenes, but they are bloody, brutal and totally believable. Their cockiness gets the better of them as they manage to piss off the local thugs when their rottweiler kills another dog in the ring. As Octavio and his pal flee the thugs, they are involved in a serious car accident. This accident becomes the meeting place for all three stories.
The second story involves a TV producer and his young trophy mistress who recently injured herself in the car accident I just described. Their dog (no relation to the dog fights) accidentally falls in a hole in the floor of the apartment and gets stuck underneath the floorboards. They can hear the dog whimpering but can’t rescue him. The relationship of the couple disintegrates amid fear and frustration as they obsessively tear up the floor boards and destroy their own apartment in search of the dog.
The third story involves a street person (El Chivo) whom we discover is a former hitman, who’s trying to mend his ways and atone for his sins. El Chivo is approached by a man who asks him to kill his partner for money. El Chivo is about to, but has a change of heart and decides to turn the tables on the other man.
“Amores Perros” loves its characters and puts them through the worst agony and heartbreak. Since his brother is such a hardass, we want so desperately for Octavio to get with his girlfriend. We have such sympathy for El Chivo, whom we feel sorry for because he’s homeless but also because he's heroic and desperately wants to correct the mistakes he's made in life. The TV producer and his mistress are upper class snobs, who, unlike the other characters, can’t cope with the stress of their situation. Though I don’t know much of Mexican politics, the film may be more of a social commentary than anything else.
The film is bathed in the bright colours and intense heat of Mexico City. The film oozes humidity. It’s a lengthy two and a half hours, so make time for this film. Enjoy.