BIUTIFUL (Alejandro González Iñárritu, 2010)

Having severed his professional partnership with scenarist Guillermo Arriaga Jordán (making vile, shameless Babel, 2006, their last film together), Mexico’s Alejandro González Iñárritu has now come after us, like a rabid dog, with Biutiful, whose imbecilic, cutesy title, suited to a schoolgirl’s misspelling (shades of Pet Sematary, 1989!), heads a dreary, morose soap opera about an unpleasant middle-aged hoodlum, Uxbal, who is (too slowly!) dying of prostate cancer in a Barcelona slum. The film is from Mexico and Spain.
     Part of a criminal operation that includes exploiting Chinese immigrants in a garment sweatshop, Uxbal is himself exploited, and continually beaten down, by the capitalism that worships at the altar of “the bottom line” and treats humanity as property, deepening rather than eliminating or alleviating their suffering. The gruesome scene in which Uxbal urinates blood, in context, marks his terminal illness, metaphorically, as the outcome of the political and economic system besieging him body and soul.
     The message of this film is agreeable to me; the tawdriness and sentimentality are not. I remain unconvinced by all Uxbal’s efforts to arrange a legacy to leave his two young children and would also prefer to have been spared Uxbal’s brother Tito’s affair with the children’s mother. How this movie piles on the crap!
     The film goes for manipulative broke with the closing repetition of the nearly opening encounter, in soulfully snow-clad woods, between Uxbal and a handsome young man, whom we ultimately can identify as Uxbal’s father—seriously!—who died in Mexico, self-exiled from Franco’s Spain. González Iñárritu throws in everything, including the kitchen s[t]ink.
     Javier Bardem (best actor, Cannes, Goya Awards) plays Uxbal, shouting restraint but not once getting close to the bone. Best foreign-language film prizes: critics’ groups in Washington, D.C., area, Phoenix, and Dallas-Fort Worth.


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