Thursday, December 07, 2006
I still don't know if I like Babel yet.
Babel. The latest film from director Alejandro González Iñárritu and writer Guillermo Arriaga (the team behind Amores Perros and 21 Grams) tells another intertwined tale of bleak narrative threads. This film centers on the principles involved in a shooting in Morocco. Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett are an American couple on a tour bus. They are depressed and barely holding on due to the SIDS related death of their child. They are trying to get away and reconnect, but the trip isn't working. When all of a sudden, a bullet cracks the window of the bus where Blanchett sits. Pitt then tries desperately to save her in this foreign land.
In California, Pitt and Blanchett's surviving children (one of whom is played by a Fanning) are under the care of their maid Amelia (Adriana Barraza). Amelia's son is getting married, and she wants to go to Mexico to be there for it. But with the shooting and what not, she has to tend to the children. After exhausting every possible option (save for the last resort option which would involve snakes on aircraft) she decides to bring the kids across the border, driven by her nephew Gael Garcia Bernal.
And there's also the story of the mountain children, who were simply learning how to shoot a rifle to protect their goats from jackyls. Their consequences.
Oh, and then there's the story of Chieko (Rinko Kikuchi), a deaf-mute Japanese girl, who's involvement with the other story threads is kind of shaky at best, but then again that could be part of the point.
Here's the thing, from a technical point of view, the movie is VERY good. The acting is splendid, even if Brad Pitt spends most his segments crying. (And there's serious Oscar talk about this man). The best is Rinko Kikuchi as the deaf mute. I thought I heard somewhere that she is actually deaf and mute, but found out that I was misinformed. I found myself wanting to watch a movie about her, and not just because she's naked for a fair portion of her story.
It's beautifully shot by Rodrigo Prieto (Brokeback Mountain, 21 Grams), and the music works perfectly.
And yet, it doesn't quite work as a whole. There doesn't seem to be a driving force behind any of these events. As a result, some of the scenes feel uneven, especially with the fragmented narrative, which doesn't work nearly as well as the puzzle pieces of 21 Grams. (Even though if 21 Grams were to run linearly, it, too, wouldn't add up to much more than bleak melodrama).
Take what you will of this half hearted review. For what it's worth, like I said, everything is pretty good. It doesn't feel like you're being preached too, and there are certainly are compelling moments. But not all the moments add up to a satisfying whole. I'm sure many will disagree with me, and tell me how I didn't get it. (I actually had flashbacks to my senior year film studies course, talking about globalized filmmaking, and thought I could write a good paper about this if I cared enough.) But that doesn't matter. It should have made me feel more.
So I still don't know if it's a good movie or not. Certainly well done, and worth it for Rinko Kikuchi alone it should be seen. But this is a movie I feel has been over hyped by Oscar bloggers who feel hip in finding it so damn good.