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A smartly modern elegy.
the red duchess22 May 2001
There is a character in 'Amores perros' who looks like Karl Marx. He is a tramp and an assassin, a good bourgeois who one day, Reggie Perrin-like, abandoned his family, and, un-Reggie Perrin-like, joined the Sandanistas in an effort to create a better world, earning 20 years in prison for his troubles. Walking the streets with a creaky cart and a gaggle of mangy dogs, he was found by the policeman who jailed him, who gave him a dingy place to live, food, and the odd, non-official contract.

El Chivo is the soul of the film, the missing link, both in appearance (a man called 'The Goat', who has rejected the civilities of society and lives a beast-like existence with his dogs, amongst the ruins of civilisation), and narrative function. With intricate structure, 'Amores perros' tells three stories, one of underclass Mexican life, where survival depends on what New Labour calls 'illegal economies' (dog-fighting, bank-robbing etc.), where bright young women are stifled and degraded by thoughtless pregnancies and brutal marriages, where single mothers depend (and usually can't depend) on shiftless sons for subsistence; and this world's mirror opposite, the world of the media, of celebrity, of models and magazine editors, of daytime TV, perfume advertising campaigns and bright apartments. Family life is central here too, although in this case it is torn apart by more pleasanntly bourgeois ailments like ennui and dissatisfaction.

These two stories are mediated by the narrative of El Chivo, the man who left one of these worlds for the other, but who still negotiates the two, through his search for the daughter he left as a toddler, and in his 'job', wiping out businessman. If Mexico is emerging as part of the super-confident globalism of high-capitalism, than El Chivo is the grizzly sore thumb, the ex-Sandinista, the Marx lookalike, the man who said no, the drop-out, the forgotten, the depleted spirit of the Left, happily killing and torturing the servants of the new economic regime.

There is something Biblical about his hirsute ascetism too, presuming to judge the 'Cain and Abel' half-brothers, one an adulterer, the other with a contract out on his sibling, another example of family gone badly wrong. This, the bleak funeral and grave scenes, and Octavia's functional crossing himself every time he passes an icon on the landing, are the sole residual elements of religion in a society once ostentatiously religious.

Except for the director. Like Paul Thomas Anderson in 'Magnolia', although to a less self-conscious degree, Gonzales Inarritu is the God of his film, intricately creating the structure that links his characters and their different environments. These are negative connections, however, which work against the idea of coherent meaning in life - contact usually results in destruction (physical, material, spiritual), or diminishing.

He is also an Old Testament god, punishing those who would get too confident with their future plans or their seemingly inviolable present success - the gains of capitalism are prey to the violent whims of chance: Gonzalez Inarritu doesn't need frogs to shake a rigid society or mindset.

Moral change is linked to physical change - being beaten up, losing a leg, cutting hair. The punning title, with its reference to the dog-eat/fight-dog nature of modern life, and its general unsatisfactoriness, also gives the film its Biblical feel, the idea of Mexico as an asphalt desert, or a rubbish heap, with all these scrawny mutts scavenging the remains.

'Amores perros' shares the sickly, bleached near-monochrome look of many recent crime films, like 'Chopper' or 'Bleeder'. But where the heightened mise-en-scene in those works were expressionistic projections of their protagonists' psychosis, here it's part of a controlling world-view, the universal consciousness that creates, connects and destroys.

The three stories, though connected narratively and symbolically, are mutually distinct - the first is an exhilirating mix of violent gangster film and frustrated romance; the second is like a short story (the screenwriter is a novelist), a figurative plot where movement is through image, symbol and idea, rather than film narrative; the third is a kind of spiritual journey, with an appropriately Biblical (or Wim Wenders-like) openness.

'Amores perros' is not quite as amazing as its admirers claim - it says more about contemporary cinema that a film only has to hold your interest for it to be a masterpiece - but it is consistently enthralling, and, despite all the stylistic tics and brutal violence, bracingly humanist.
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Lest the Dramatic Structure be Stillborn
aknowles-16 March 2004
Warning: Spoilers
True to the structure, Iñárritu attacks the subject of love with a multi-pronged approach, addressing three different stages, or complications, common in `love.' All three storylines represent the `struggling' aspect of love. It would be fair to say that Amores Perros, roughly translated to be `Love's a Bitch,' makes the ultimate statement, `Love is a struggle.' More specifically, however, Octavio's narrative can be most suitably seen as the `hunt for love' and acquisition or fight for it. To be with his love, Susana, he must overcome both the fact that his brother is married to her and the fact that his dreams of leaving the city are hamstrung by his less than admirable socio-economic state. Daniel and Valeria, who are about fifteen to twenty years Octavio and Susana's elders, represent love's most frustrating peak - when one is already in it and wants or needs to get out, for better of for worse. Daniel is trying to get out of a marriage in which he has kids to be with the supermodel, Valeria, a woman whose meaning to him is ultimately superficial. El Chivo, whose story is a perfect compliment to Daniel's, represents distance and alienation from love, inwardly looking at it from the outside. He has abandoned his family twenty years prior to become a guerilla terrorist and now operates as a vagabond hit man. It would be difficult to look at these three different `stages' of love in a classically structured film. The episodic structure eases us between each stage, at no point forcing us to tolerate the unrealistic concept of one couple going through all of these stages. Breaking it up into three different narratives, each revolving around different characters, presents the audience with the ability to view each story as independent the others, a more pervasive perspective.

However, this film is not a simple three-part love story. In Amores Perros, violence is akin to love. Each character displays this brutally: El Chivo leaves his love to be a terrorist; Octavio engages his dog in violence and even attempts murder to provide money for his love; Daniel and Valeria's relationship is verbally and nearly physically volatile to the point where they hate each other. Each character's love for another character is manifested in their violent acts. This is an interesting theme considering the paradoxical relationship between love and violence, one of which is the induction of harm, the other which is the polar opposite. This juxtaposition of love and violence, if for no other reason, is meant to show the impulsive nature of love. We take it for granted as a compassionate, helping characteristic of life but Iñárritu reveals his characters through this juxtaposition, allowing the audience to consider the consequences of love that are otherwise unforeseen.

Iñárritu does a lot of things right in this film. Mainly, he keeps us in constant suspense through the causality of the plot, forcing us to anticipate the results of the characters' actions. This causality can be as brazen as Octavio's decision to stab Jarocho, inevitably leading one into apprehension over what will happen to Octavio. Less obviously, however, is the way he creates suspense around Daniel and Valeria. Their whole relationship is characterized by conflict. While this makes for good dialogue, it insists upon a boiling point - one that is anticipated throughout the entire length of their chapter. Likewise, there is delicate suspense over what Valeria's disfigurement will mean for their relationship. Not only is Daniel forced to confront whether or not Valeria's beauty is the only thing keeping them together, but Valeria must adjust to living without her beauty. Suspense revolves around El Chivo from the moment he first comes onto screen. We see him. He murders someone. We're back to the story of Octavio. The entire first two hours of the movie beg of an answer as to who this man is and what he has to do with the subject of the film. We later find out, not only does he have everything to do with it; he makes the film, seeking redemption on behalf of every other love-torn character. The type of monologue Emilio Echevarria's character, El Chivo, delivers at the end of the film would have a completely different meaning in a film without an episodic structure, in which case he would only be seeking redemption for himself. However, the way Iñárritu cross cuts between El Chivo and the other characters, in all their woe - the consequences of their actions, applies greater meaning to El Chivo's words and actions in the final scene.

Perhaps where we get some of the most important information about the characters, and Amores Perros as a whole, is through what is representative. Iñárritu makes steady use of symbols and motifs throughout the film, some of which work well, lending themselves nicely to the dramatic structure of the film, others failing to enhance the story. For example, the massive Enchant billboard looming above Valeria's apartment like the eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg is one of the more lackluster motifs in the film. First, we are unavoidably asking, `Why they would want to live under that thing in the first place? Second, the removal of the billboard coinciding with the fall of Valeria's career, Daniel's self-assurance, their relationship, whatever you want to intuit, is much to explicit for this film. The more understated motifs such as the recurring telephone ring, `Bueno?.Bueno?' someone always answers, come off better. This repetition is telling of the deception and unfaithfulness rampant in this world. It works. Another representative device that supplements the story is how the dogs act as metaphors for their respective owners. El Chivo's dogs are the very embodiment of him. They are all strays much the same way he is a vagrant. Cofi, Octavio's rottweiler is equivalent to Octavio in his impulsive and aggressive behavior. This is displayed in Cofi most notably during the fight scenes, but we see it particularly in Octavio when he head-butts his brother, Ramiro, and when he stabs Jarocho in the stomach and thereby provoking the car chase. Valeria's dog, Richie, is lost under the floorboards, confined for most of this narrative. Valeria is physically much the same way, confined to her wheelchair. More implicitly, she is confined to a life that has been propped up around her by people who idolize, envy, or lust after her. Valeria's death is also parallel to her dog's death in that they both die from their respective internment, Valeria being trapped in a room and too immobile to save herself, Richie trapped in the floor and too exhausted to fend off armies hungry rats. The motifs and metaphors within each narrative help structure them as self-contained bodies.

The episodic structure of Amores Perros could have been damaging to the film had it not been for the inspired way the stories overlap only so much as to not exasperate the audience. In the three stories, rarely does a character from one interact with a character from another, outside the unifying car crash scene. There are truly only two occurrences: when El Chivo, sword in hand, scares off a frustrated Jarocho who plans to sic his dog on one of El Chivo's, and when Valeria appears on a Mexican morning show broadcast into Octavio's home the morning of the accident. This interaction was all that was needed for Amores Perros to be successful as an episodic film. Its structure lends itself well to subject matter and storyline. Iñárritu tells it to us this way; the literary devices at use bring it to life and its structure gives it legs to move. Throughout it, so well crafted, one can mentally fuse all three stories together and see one single character going through the process of fighting for love, realizing what a trivial pursuit it is, abandoning it, and then spending the rest of his life trying to touch it from behind the bars self-guilt.
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Excellent Storytelling But Flawed
I was really looking forward to this as I had heard all the hype about it off IMDb and managed to get it in a DVD sale for £8. The only thing that put me off was that there was dog fights in it and I don't take kindly to watching animal cruelty in films. I know it's not real but it reminds me that it does happen in some countries and it's just a bit upsetting but I thought to myself 'it's only a movie and I am sure it won't take anything away from it' and thankfully it didn't. I liked the way they put in the beginning of the film reminding us that no animal was hurt during the course of the movie because people don't usually watch the credits at the end unless they really want to because that quote about the animals doesn't really come up till the very last bit of the credits but without it at the beginning then I am sure there would be a lot of very upset people. But back to the film Amores Perros is all about three different stories that come together through a car accident and we see how there lives are before and after the accident. We start off with Octavio who lives at home with his abusing brother, mother and his brother's girlfriend who he has taken a shine to. His brother is always on at him and smacks about his partner which doesn't like but knows he can do nothing about it unless he wants his legs broken. His story begins when his dog kills a champion fighting dog owned by a ruthless gangster of the town.

When Octavio realises that he can make some money with his dog fighting so he can escape the slums of Mexico City. But it's not so easy as he wants to take his brother girlfriend and her baby with him but she takes some convincing. The other story is to do with Valeria who is happy with her new lover who has just left his wife and kids for her but the terrible accident leaves her wheelchair bound and she loses her grip on wanting to enjoy her life and things start to become hard for her and her lover. But the only thing that is keeping her occupied is the love for her dog who accidentally gets trapped underneath the floor boards. Valeria worries as there are Rats down there and doesn't seem to find a way of getting the dog out and as this happens her conditions worsens with gangrene setting in. The last story is with El Chiro A homeless man with nothing in his life apart from his love for his own pet dogs. He also has a past that is hurting him deep inside as he is not allowed to see his daughter after he walked out on the family but now is ex wife is dead he tries to make up for what he has done with the his daughter but the family do it's best to keep him away and obsolete from her life.

The movie is very long and has a lot of unneeded scenes in it. I really wasn't taken in by the story of Valeria as it didn't seem very convincing and doesn't really go anywhere. You think it's just about to get interesting but at the last minute it has gone and it makes you feel whether they could have just cut out the entire screen as she doesn't make a difference. If I had it my own way then I would have kept the whole film focusing on Octavio and his dog Cofi trying their best to gather enough money to get out of there depressing lives and with El Chiro coming in in one or two scenes to make it a lot more interesting. This doesn't make Amores Perros a bad film just not a great one. You will go away thinking it could have been better or you will just plain love it but not watch it again. Its not the sort of film you go back and watch it again and again unless it intrigued you.

Another good solid foreign film that didn't hit all the marks but still very good.
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Doggie Holocaust makes for Best Mexican Film Ever
WriterDave11 June 2003
Some people just won't want to sit through this film because of the overtly graphic and disturbing dog fighting scenes, which is ironic, because most people don't seem to mind the graphic violence involving the people in this film. Others simply won't watch it because of the subtitles. This is a shame, since this is by far the best film I have ever seen come out of Mexico (far better and more complex than the comparably immature "Y Tu Mama Tambien"). Here we get an intertwining tale involving dog fights, petty gangsters, a tragically injured model, a cheating husband, an abused teenage wife, and a homeless hit man. As you might expect the homeless hit man becomes the soul of the film, and the dogs serve as a link, reminding us of the violence we inflict upon each other and nature, and the fractured relationships we think beyond repair, but are actually more resilient than we could ever imagine. Brilliantly directed with a great soundtrack and a bigger heart than you might initially perceive, "Amores Perros" is a deep, thought-provoking and utterly enthralling film that you will not soon forget.
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Brilliant movie! One of the best this decade...
Infofreak24 May 2002
'Amores Perros' impressed the hell out of me. Three interrelated tales of the darker side of life in contemporary Mexico City, each one as fresh and as fascinating as the last. Each of the three stories are dark, disturbing and filled with humanity. Superbly acted all round, but especially noteworthy is the standout performance by Emilio Echevarria as El Chivo, a political dissident turned hitman, and if the charismatic Gael Garcia Bernal (Octavia, the lovesick dog fighter) isn't an international star in the making I'll eat my words. This brilliant movie shows up the mediocrity of most current Hollywood "product", and to my mind ranks with a small handful of movies made this decade ('Chopper', 'The Pledge', 'The Way Of The Gun') that are truly memorable and with genuine substance. This one is a winner and essential viewing for all movie lovers. A future classic.
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reality is weirder than fiction
danielariasv19 July 2002
Maybe for most of you, people outside third-world countries like Mexico or Colombia, my home, movies like ths one are only representations of another world... something away from you. My city, medellin, is one of the most dangerous cities on the world. Mexico city can be as dangerous as medellin. I`m not talking about politics. maybe you haven`t lived violence as near as i have, but im gonna tell you something, that is the main reason i voted 9 this movie: Amores perros is not fiction. Its a perfect peep to what life is here. We have expensive models that go to stupid tv shows, we have dog fighting, we have mercedes, we have old trucks, we have killers, businessmen, we feel love, we have houses... our life, as you can see in the movie, isn`t as different as you think. Amores perros can show you that life is not easy here. but that`s it. What you saw is thousand`s of people life. that`s why it`s so magic to you. Yourè seeing what you will never live there, in london, new york, seattle, paris, berlin... reality is weirder than fiction... see it on amores perros, and you`ll believe me... live it here, and no movie will surprise you
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On Men And Dogs
dromasca25 April 2003
This Mexican movie was surprisingly good. I confess the sin of prejudice concerning Mexican cinema, this being maybe the second Mexican film I have ever seen, but here my sins are punished. This is the work of a director of big talent. Hopefully, he will not be spoiled by the success.

Three different stories in today's Mexico mix with very few common elements. The characters belong to different social categories, and nothing connects them at first sight, excepting the feeling of un-happiness, and - yes - dogs. Dogs play an important role in all three stories. One more warning - there is a lot of cruelty including dog fights - this film is certainly not for sensitive animal lovers.

Directing is excellent, the stories are human and complex and despite their melodramatic or sometimes tragic outcome, they still leave you with a shade of hope - maybe because the humanity that the author uses to create his characters. There are so many memorable scenes, that I would commit another sin to pick any and describe it here - just rent, or go to watch this movie in the theater - it is worth all 150 or so minutes you will spend. 9/10 on my personal scale.
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Must've beaten Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in the Academy Awards
tricky_jgc11 April 2005
I think we're talking about one of the best Mexican films ever (i say so, knowing there's been excellent Luis Buñuel films as well as Arturo Ripstein ones, like 'Principio y Fin' -Begining and End- that is this director's highest peak (based on the book by Naguib Mafusz)and Emilio 'El Indio' Fernandez ones that i don't personally like that much (even though he received the Golden Bear in the 'Berlinale').

Being surrounded by terrible Mexican movies, 'Amores Perros' was so refreshing and remarkably above every expectation that everybody could have about a first-time director (even though he was well-known for his wonderful work at advertising (changing the way ads were made in Mexico) and as a radio DJ in a WFM radio station that contributed to change radio in Mexico, too, along with Rock 101. Gonzalez Iñarritu (in cooperation with his almost personal screenwriter, Guillermo Arriaga) creates such a complex yet flawless history based on three individual ones that converge not only in the dantesque (reference to Dante Alighieri's style, The Divine Comedy) car accident, but in their perception and description of how love can be harsh, as well as life itself, of how love can get to be a bitch, a struggle.

First Story ('Octavio y Susana') is about Octavio's (Garcia Bernal) obsession with his sister-in-law, Susana (Vanessa Bauche), but it's also about the violence, about an illusion, about betrayal, about loss. This is also reflected in the character of Octavio's dog, Cofi in a parallel relationship with his owner while he seeks his own destiny, having lost everything, he'll have to redefine his life. This parallelism also occurs in the second story('Daniel y Valeria'), an almost surreal one, where Ritchie being trapped underneath the condo's floor represents how it's owner Valeria (Goya Toledo) is trapped in a relation with Daniel that grows sicker as her injury (caused by the car accident) gets worse. The removal of the gigantic advertising of 'Enchant', the scent campaign that she used to be the image for, from the view of her balcony represents their decline: Daniel (Avaro Guerrero) left behind his marriage for this superficial mirage kind of dream, and she will have to make a whole redefinition of her life after losing everything. The dog-character parallelism with the main characters of this film can also be noticed in the third story ('El Chivo y Maru'), where 'El Chivo' (Emilio Echevaria), a former College teacher that left it all, family included, to become some guerrilla terrorist (is there a symbolism for Subcommander Marcos, from EZLN?), and now finds, by losing it all (all of his dogs being killed), but finding a new reason, new company just before a hit-man-type mission where he sets a confrontation between two brothers in such a biblical style the chance that none of the characters from the rest of the stories had: redemption. That's when he decides to retrieve some of the things he has lost, like Maru (Lourdes Echevarria -Emilio's actual daughter in real life), by at least apologizing to her, and redeeming himself finding a new life. It's clear that he'll stop being a homeless, because by the end of the movie he's got plenty of money. This story is one step ahead of the other two, cause after the loss they are all victims of, 'El Chivo' is the only one who gets that chance to start from scratch once again. Huge merit to Emilio Echevarria's performance for making believable the only character that was in risk of not being plausible of the film. Because of the relation within the characters, their dogs and their own love personal story, the title is, too a big success (both in Spanish and in English).

Of the episodic narrative structure of the movie (a few critics in the Cannes Film Festival compared it with Tarantino's Pulp Fiction), it can be said that besides making it more beautiful and complex, it's also necessary. One can't figure a way to resolve the situation other than this one. The thrill, the shock would never be the same. For example, if each one was a short film instead, it wouldn't work the same way as the whole movie.

In the film, Gonzalez Iñarritu allows himself to appear a few times: in the editorial where Daniel works, for example, verifying a magazine cover; having some of the TV spots he made in the 90's when he was a publicist shown in the movie; and in the last scene, 'El Chivo' names the dog he rescued (formerly known as Cofi) as 'El Negro', Iñarritu's nickname.
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Do dogs have personal characters? Or they just try to be loyal to their owners? What if they reflect our personalities by means of their loyalty?
CihanVercan11 October 2009
Thanks to contributors, plot synopsis has been very well written. Amores Perros is included in the most important movies for the beginning of the 21st century. It marked a new epoch with its thoroughly life-like vision on a twist of fate. Then in a 5 years' of time within more recognized movies, we started seeing similar plot schemes telling different stories over accidents that binds each person's fate. One of them was Crash, and it won the best picture Oscar in 2005.

The more you see this film over and over again you'll get to a deeper point where the lives and choices of the characters won't matter any more. It's still affecting in the first-time watch, but with an examining view the next time you see it; you're driven into a vision, a cast of mind.There were 3 main characters and 3 main stories from each one, which are nested altogether. If we look at these stories over the characters' relationships with their dogs, it's intriguing. As if the dogs exemplify their owners:

1' Young loafer Octavio commits crime in order to earn money to make a living. He fights his dog Cofi in dog-fighting tournaments. How Cofi needs to fight for his life, so does need Octavio to commit crime for his life.

2' In the second story, beautiful model Valeria receives a surprise gift from her fiancé to choose a puppy from a pet store. By time, the puppy gets used to live a super-luxury pet life; which is the same life style of her owner. Valeria and her fiancé's apartment unit is under a hardwood flooring construction. One day while alone at home the puppy falls into a gap between the hardwood and the concrete; thus stays stuck there and began to squawk, since she is not used to live without comfort. At the same day her owner Valeria gets involved in a car accident while driving alone, having no one to help her just as happened to her puppy. She loses her leg in this accident and her luxury life comes to an end, as same as the life of her puppy. She begins complaining like her puppy squawking.

3' In the last story, the grim hit-man El Chivo saves the life of Octavio's dog Cofi, after Octavio gets killed in the traffic accident in which Valeria lost her leg. Saving him changes Cofi's life, he no longer needs to fight for Octavio's bets on dog-fighting. His life becomes safe and peaceful. El Chivo starts looking after Cofi beside his other dogs. Among the other dogs Cofi looks very ugly and dirty. One day when El Chivo leaves the dogs together at home, Cofi kills every one of them. His reason of killing all the dogs explains why his owner is a hit-man. As Cofi killed innocent dogs; El Chivo kills innocent people for El Chivo seeing himself ugly,dirty and strange among the people; like his dog feeling himself ugly,dirty and strange among the dogs. El Chivo feels bad about his dogs, when he finds out Cofi has killed them. Yet, he feels worse about himself when he actually realizes that Cofi's attitude gave him a lesson of life. Then El Chivo shaves, cuts his beard and hair, gets cleaned up and turns out looking like a gentleman. Cofi's attitude changes his life; his life becomes safe and peaceful just as when El Chivo saved Cofi's life.

The vision we're getting when we compare these 3 stories is about the public loneliness of an individual. The only person, who can guide and who can help us, is ourselves. This loneliness brings our freedom of choices. With making our own choices, we build the essence of our character: Our quintessences. Life is sum of all our choices. In order to build our quintessences; we always face the risk, fear and pressure of the chance of making a wrong choice. Life makes it obligatory to make choices. This obligatory builds our inner crisis and develops our personality. To find the secrets of our own personality, we try to find someone or something else to lay a burden on the responsibility of self-search. Here in Amores Perros, the 3 main characters are used by their self-search reflection on their dogs.

Doesn't this vision form the idea of Jean Paul Sartre's "Being and Nothingness"? Since Amores Perros hides the character views through the situations created by dogs; it is a movie that has no characters, but only situations. This is the systematic of Existentialism. If there was no situation or happening, there wouldn't have been any characters. Existence precedes essence. A person is nothing without his actions. So, a person doesn't have a soul(or a character) if he is not alive. Then there wasn't and won't be anything before and after our lives.

If we don't believe in this vision, certainly the signs of fate that we come across in our lives must be delusion.
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Orale, guey!!!!!
camselle24 November 2003
A masterpiece. Plain and simple. This picture transcends any language and culture, making us all be able to relate to each of its characters. I don't buy the comparison to Pulp Fiction or any other work. The disregard of chronological scene order and intertwining storylines have been occuring in films for years. Its done for effect here, is all.

Alejandro Inarritu simply lets his actors take over and finishes off a puzzle that is almost complete as a result of the writing and acting. Not to denigrate his work, of course. After all, the ability to trust your actors and let them work is key to being a great director. BTY, more films need to be made in Mexico City, the largest in the world.
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As a director's film it is astounding but as a narrative it has it's highs and lows
bob the moo24 May 2004
A young man gets into the world of illegal dog fighting in order to get enough money together to be able to run away with his brother's wife, but in the meantime he starts tension with another dog owner. A beautiful young model signs a lucrative contract with a perfume company and moves into her new flat with her lover – only for her tragedy to strike and her dog to go missing. Finally an ex-convict and guerrilla mourns the wife he left decades ago and longs to meet the daughter who thinks he is dead – but is also contracted to kill a businessman. These three lives come together in a car crash that acts as a catalyst in changing their lives.

After seeing 21 Grams I knew that I had to get round to seeing this film. With it's appearance on TV (BBC4 showing itself to really be a 'place to think' and a wonderful channel to have) I took the opportunity to watch it, expecting a film that would match the good things I had heard about it. >From the opening car chase that results in the crash that the film spirals outwards from like debris, through for most of the first hour, I was hooked – the pace was great and the story gripping. It was violent, exciting and yet had a human element to it as well. However the second story knocked the wind out of it for a moment, and seemed to lack the emotion of the first. It was based around an urban myth of sorts and wasn't as good – even if it did pick up towards the end.

The third story saw it return to a much more involving story of pain and the grinding out of life (as in 'getting by'). Maybe it was the rich lifestyles of the characters in story two that stopped me caring as much – I don't know but I know that the contrast between one & two made it more obvious how much the pace had dropped – especially when we are left wanted to know what happened to the characters we had spent an hour getting to care about. Anyway, the third story is a satisfying ending to the film and drew me back in emotionally where the second story had cut me off by it's abrupt start. Story two finishes before story three begins, and therefore it was easier to move on.

I think the problem with this film for me was not the fact that three stories were intermingled but that I didn't think they were actually mixed well – the way the film moves away from characters before concluding their section (eg Octavia), the way the stories are actually quite separate from one another, these things and other I felt weakened the films – although each story was strong on it's own I just felt that story 2 was such a change to the film that it hurt it.

However, as a film debut this is an amazing piece of work and is relentlessly impressive. From the opening car chase to the dog fights to the silent pain of the model looking out where her image once hung – in all these different moments I thought he did a great job and visually the film was never dull once no matter if it was set in a penthouse flat or a basement of an old building with the blood of dead dogs. And while we're on the subject, at the time of release I heard critics say they walked out of the film, refusing to watch cruelty to animals even being simulated. I can see their point but also think that they missed the fact that the animals in the film are mostly loved (even if they mostly die!) – however it is love and compassion for other humans that the film shows the characters having difficulty with, and this is where the emotional impact of the film is – not in simulated dogfights, albeit very well simulated dogfights that are hard to hear even if they are mostly unseen.

The cast were all natural but I always find it hard to judge performances when they are not in English. Having said that, there were no bad performances in the whole thing – even if some have better material to work with than others. Of course I still think this is a director's film and the cast often take second place to the style and the feel of the film.

Overall I really enjoyed this film but don't believe it deserves to be considered one of the 'best films ever made™'! The opening hour is superb and it's pace is relentless (even in more sensitive moments) but the sudden stop the film makes when it changes to story two is too much to stand and really caused the film to stutter for me. It gets better and is fully back on track for story three but there are problems running all through the narrative. Even though it has a lower rating on IMDb at time of writing, I'd still say that 21 Grams offer this same fragmented style but with a much more satisfying narrative. Regardless of my nit picking I still think this is a powerful film that makes 150 minutes fly by with a huge amount of style from the first-time director, even if it does not live up to the endlessly gushing praise lavished upon it by many viewers.
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LanaKane23 April 2001
This movie is a must-to-see if you can get over the 'subtitles' fact. (I didn't have no problems with it because I understand Spanish). Personally I was really impressed by the quality, perfection, and superb acting of this Mexican movie. The movie consists of three different stories connected by one sole incident. Sometimes you will see the same scene from a different point of view. Or you'll see an out of place scene that will make sense later on. The script was exquisite, very loyal to the culture. The direction was brilliant keeping us interested from beginning to end. And the performances were excellent, so natural and real that you felt as if they were people you knew. Be aware there's extreme violence in this movie, and even though there were kids in the theater I went to, this is not a family movie. I don't recommend it for children if you are a responsible parent. This movie deserves an award.
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Brutally Powerful
commandercool8830 March 2007
'Amores Perros' is a shocking experience from visionary director Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu. It's a difficult film to watch, one which continuously challenges its audience, but a reward in of itself for those who can withstand its brutality. It puts a magnifying glass to the pain of love, and those who are destroyed by it. It gives new meaning to the film title's literal translation, 'love is a bitch'.

In a single moment in time, several lives in Mexico City will be changed forever by a devastating car crash. The film divides itself into three separate segments: representing the past, present, and future. Octavio is searching for recognition and love, but looks in the wrong places. It's a desire that drives him, leading him to make choices in life that will soon haunt him. Valerie, whose life is most impacted by the car accident, finds herself living in a relationship that's crumbling and self-destructing. El Chivo must deal with the absence of his daughter, and the void it's left in his life. He finds companionship in the dogs he picks up off the street, and they soon become the only living things he can connect with. Together, the lives of these individuals will collide in more ways than one. They will find themselves connected by a single thread: love. And the hell that can be unleashed with it.

When I finished watching 'Amores Perros', one of the first things that popped into my mind was why 'Babel' couldn't have been this good. Where 'Babel' lacked in emotional depths and highs, 'Amores Perros' at times finds itself drowning in it. It's a visceral and gritty film, so raw and intense. You may think you've seen it all, but 'Perros' will challenge even those who are rarely phased by cinema. You may find it difficult not to look away at times. Iñarritu's movie has been described as being a 'dog holocaust', and at times I can't disagree. The film's sheer violence is so penetrating and disturbing, it packs a mighty punch. And while this film is definitely not for the squeamish or faint of heart, there's no question that 'Amores Perros' has a tender heart and message ready to be heard. Iñarritu crafts a compelling story from start to finish, which strips down to the bare basics. His ability to capture a piece of the human spirit is wondrous, even if it doesn't always cast us in the best light. It's dark, fierce, and relentless, but nothing short of greatness.

'Amores Perros' features an array of actors and actresses, all of which work wonders in their respective roles. Gael Garcia Bernal is, as always, brilliant. It's a more restrained and less quirky role than many are used to seeing him in, but nonetheless has the rare ability to capture and audience's attention with ease. Emilio Echevarria stars as El Chivo, and delivers a haunting performance as a man who finds himself alone and saddened. It's the weakest part of the film, but is made up for by Emilio's wonderful presence. Goya Toledo plays Valerie, a celebrity crippled by the accident the film revolves around. I found her part in the story to be most interesting, if not for the fact of seeing the life of someone who goes from having it all to nothing at all. There are many numerous performances, too many to cover, but they all lend their talents to create something extraordinary.

'Amores Perros' is an adrenaline rush for its entire running, which tops two-and-a-half hours. It's all a very human and primal film, which can be attributed to Iñarritu's impeccable style and talent. Combining a mutli-faceted story with electric performances, 'Perros' works on many different layers to satisfying results. An original and bold step in film-making, this nearly perfect picture will have you experience a collage of emotions, and invest in flawed characters... all for the sake of love.
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You may enjoy it more, but I found Amores Perros to be a disappointment.
lewiskendell8 September 2010
"To make God laugh, tell him your plans."

I usually love these kinds of sprawling dramas about interconnected people, but I suppose there's an exception to every rule. Amores Perros is that exception, for me. It felt more like a 2 1/2 hour soap opera, than a riveting drama. 

The only story of the three presented here that somewhat interested me was that of Daniel and Valeria. The rest of my time with Amores Perros was spent wondering why none of these people have caller ID, wondering whether this movie set some kind of record for most fake dead dogs in a film, wondering who El Chivo reminded me of (Il Duce from Boondock Saints), wondering why they just didn't cover the darn hole (who leaves gaping holes in the middle of their apartment floor?), and trying to think up a name for the dog (never came up with anything I liked more than Lost Dog). Mostly, I was just bored. 

I've read other people describe this as a powerful movie. Unfortunately, it just didn't do much for me. I give it credit for breaking my heart over those gorgeous legs (a true tragedy, my friends), but that's about it. 
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What's the big deal?
utzutzutz1 May 2001
Will someone please tell me what all the fuss is about? If the presence of gore is the gauge of cinematic skill, then yes, AMORES PERROS is a masterpiece. But surely one first-time director's fascination with maimed dogs and Mexicanismo does not a 21st-century film template make. Granted, it's a somewhat cleverly crafted story, but this blood-guts-passion trip through Mexico City fails to make any real point or leave the audience with much to ponder. (Though I did find myself contemplating how they managed to locate all those dead-dog body doubles for the live dogs...)

AMORES PERROS, which the film translates as "Love is a Bitch," might be better rendered "Love is Like a Dog," or "Some of These People Actually LOVE Dogs," or "If You Love Your Dog, Don't See This Movie." It opens with a truly gruesome car crash in which blood and guts swirl around liberally. If you happen to walk in late, never fear: the scene will replay twice more. With this event as the anchor, the film flashes back and forward on the lives directly and tangentially involved--what led up to this bloody wreck and how it affects all concerned.

Driving the offending vehicle is Octavio (Gael García Bernal), brother of the abusive Ramiro (Marco Pérez) and lover-in-waiting of his wife, Susana (Vanessa Bauche). Octavio's role is basically to hang around the house panting at his sister-in-law, until he decides to make money by entering Ramiro's vicious mastiff in dog fights. The car he's slammed into conveys supermodel Valeria (Goya Toledo), whose successful career ends on impact. She is mistress to Daniel (Álvaro Guerrero), who's gone middle-age crazy and separated from his wife to live with Valeria 24/7. The supermodel's true love, however, is her moplike Lhasa apso, Richie.

The triptych's third panel focuses on El Chivo (Emilio Echevarría), a former revolutionary. Imprisoned while his daughter was born, he has never met her, though he's remained obsessed with images of her for more than 20 years. He moons over her while alternately practicing his assassination skills and living with his own pack of canines.

AMORES PERROS is the debut film of director Alejandro González Inárritu, a Mexican DJ who's apparently seen PULP FICTION a few times. While it doesn't slavishly imitate Tarantino, it noticeably cops a few of his moves. Like a bad case of coffee nerves, the film functions best at high velocity and on razor's edge. There's plenty of speeded-up action, trick cuts, and always the threat of imminent gore. With many scenes rife with tension, AMORES often strays into telenovela territory, though it's tough to tell if the melodrama is intentional.

Yet, strangely enough, after all this adrenaline puts us on red alert, we are thrust into an extremely tedious middle portion, in which Valeria's dog gets trapped beneath floorboards and the hapless couple can't reckon how to retrieve him. Richie whines night after night, Valeria whines night after night, fights ensue, she stages a minirevolt from her wheelchair--and we're left with a yawning, "And your point is...."

Is love a bitch? Sure. Do people treat their loves like dogs? Sometimes. Is this a rich metaphor that bears 2 1/2 hours of graphically violent exploration? Not really. Does this represent, as raves the NEW YORK TIMES, "the first classic of the new decade"? I'd hate to think so.
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Good, but I didn't get much out of it
zetes9 August 2015
Three stories are connected by a horrific car accident in Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's feature film debut. All three stories also revolve, at least to some extent, around dogs (the title translates to Love's a Bitch, with "Bitch" having a double meaning). The three stories vary in interest, in my opinion, and I struggled by the end to connect them or really to care about any of them on a deep level. Still, it's a pretty entertaining flick and very strongly directed. In the first story, Gael Garcia Bernal stars as a young man who's in love with his older brother's wife. He decides to enter his rottweiler into a series of dog fights, but he runs up against an opponent who isn't keen on losing. In the second story, a model (Goya Toledo) moves in with her boyfriend, but their happiness is immediately destroyed by the aforementioned accident. During her recovery, her beloved terrier disappears into a hole in their apartment's hardwood floor and never comes back. In the third story, a hit-man (Emilio Echevarria) who poses as a bum has an existential crisis. I more or less preferred them in the order they played out, though even the first story has its flaws (am I really supposed to have much sympathy for a guy who participates in dog fights?).
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Great Mexican Movie
alvarez-1111 August 2006
Of course I watched Pulp Fiction and when I first saw this movie, it was on TV on local station. Later bought DVD, and watched movie a couple of times and realized, in some way, that this film is even better than Pulp Fiction. It's more human than any US multi-plot-anachrono-psycho-thriller film that I ever watched. Acting is very intense, young Bernal and old Emilio especially, and the cohesion of the different-class stories is excellent. Also I must say that the tempo of a movie and soundtracks of the song are doing just in a right way. Comparing "Crush" to this masterpiece is like comparing Coldplay to Radiohead in rock music. Although I never saw a Mexican film before (only their moronic love-story series), I felt like I was right there in Mexico city, while watching. Brutal scenes for the first time in my life, make film more realistic, instead of making distance from the real life. Everybody is so edgy in this movie, but in a natural way. Great atmosphere, great film indeed.
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"To Make God Laugh, Tell Him Your Plans"
ArrivederciBaby17 April 2001
"Amores Perros" is, without question, a marvelous achievement, a powerful work that stands alongside such other brutal/poetic world classics as "Forbidden Games", "The 400 Blows", "Winter Light", "Los Olvidados", "The Tin Drum", "L'Argent", "Das Boot", and "Underground". Most professional critics have been too simple-minded to compare this film to anything other than "Pulp Fiction", to which it has absolutely no thematic connection. I'm pleased to see that several reviewers on this page have noted the true influence at work here - the late, great director Krzysztof Kieslowski and his screenwriting partner Krzysztof Piesiewicz, to whose magnificent "Dekalog" and "Trois Couleurs: Bleu, Blanc, Rouge" "Amores Perros" is indebted. Which is an acknowledgement, not a criticism. "Amores Perros" tells a trio of interwoven tales questioning man, God, faith, family, and love through a stunning combination of expert direction, writing, editing, cinematography, scoring, sound, and acting, creating a truly classic work that needs no comparisons. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and Guillermo Arriago have created a masterwork. Bravo! Not to be missed by the serious filmgoer.

"The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated" - Mohandas Gandhi
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Sometimes It Takes Thirty Six Drafts For Perfection
gcrokus17 August 2004
Warning: Spoilers
Two boys are on the run, being chased by a pickup through the streets of Mexico City, their fear fueled by concern for the bleeding dog slumped on the back seat of their car. Something bad has happened and is about to happen; though we don't know what it is or what it is going to be there is no slipping off for popcorn now; we are hooked.


Within a few minutes an event occurs which will change the lives of all the characters we will follow through three stories. In 'Octavio y Susana' we find the uneasy building of a relationship between two unlikely characters – Susana, the wife of Octavio's brother, Ramiro, and Octavio. Thrown into uncomfortably close quarters, propinquity indeed fuels Octavio's interest in Ramiro's woman. But there is more, much more, and in expressing his love for her and concern for her treatment - by his insufferably self-centered brother – he acts as we might. Through Ramiro's (or is it Octavio's?) Rottwieler dog Cofi we are introduced to the world of dogfighting; this is Octavio's opportunity to raise the cash he needs to accomplish his goals.

In the second episode 'Daniel y Valeria' we dolly in on the lives of two more fortunate (read upper class) characters – he a conflicted businessman carrying on an affair, she a supermodel the object of his affections. Their dog Ritchie will cause them no end of stress through an unfortunate accident, altering forever their relationship. Valeria's physical infirmities are traced to the life-altering moment all the film's characters eventually share.

'El Chivo y Maru', our final chapter, picks up on the events of a homeless sort we have met early in the film. And so it is revealed that he is a colorful character, sick at heart over his separation from his wife and daughter in the distant past. His actions and inactions – and how he becomes entwined in the lives of those we have met along the way – send him irrevocably into the path of all those we have followed earlier.

All these characters are threaded through the narrative in such a way that their presence at a particular place at the same time will be totally natural; in retrospect we will determine that fate is less happenstance than it is some grand design. The acting is first rate – see Octavio's visage (and note the lighting) as he reveals his feelings to Susana, watch the pain on El Chivo's face as sad events batter him in rapid order, feel the hurt on both ends of a phone non-conversation between Daniel and his estranged wife.

The dog fights, the premeditated crimes, mishaps and love affairs all arrive at a terminus and we will not ever forget the journey.

According to director Alejandro González Iñárritu (interview, thirty six drafts of the script were developed ('It was like a domino effect') over three years. As ideas were framed he notes it was difficult to blend these new threads - with any subtlety - into the fabric of the whole. But accomplish this he did; the results are terrific, bold, unpredictable, unsettling and ultimately satisfying.

Rating: Four Stars.
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Simply Superb!
The_Jihadi28 August 2006
The more i see Amores Perros on DVD (I am proud to make this DVD as my private collection) the more i am moved by the director's work. The film maker is so honest in his film making. I think it takes a lot to give such a BRILLIANT cinema. This film tells three different story at the same time. Past, Present and Future is the judgment running in all the three tales.

The performances are very natural and awesome at the same time. Gael Garcia is the best amongst all. Vanessa Bauche is also good. The camera work and technical aspects will be remembered through this film always, As they give a noticing turn to Cinema History. This film is according to me the years best reviewed film.

This film MUST be kept in the film making museum (If Exists) so that different film makers learns different things and levels of film making. A film that is a Classic. And Classics are never RE CREATED. Be it 21 Grams OR Babel (Of course i've not seen BABEL yet).
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A Car Crash, Canines and Consequences Examined in Iñárritu's Viscerally Powerful Feature Film Debut
EUyeshima24 January 2007
If like me, you were dazzled by this year's "Babel", you will likely be as curious as I was to check out the first film in director Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu's trilogy about death. Similar in narrative structure to "Babel", this viscerally shattering 2000 movie carries three overlapping stories tied together by a defining car accident. Written with dramatic precision by Guillermo Arriaga (who later wrote the other two films in the trilogy, "21 Grams" and "Babel"), all three take place within the different social strata of Mexico City, and as the title implies (English translation: "Love's a Bitch"), dogs are intriguingly pivotal to each story. Also like "Babel", the various interconnections among the stories do not come across as contrived but rather as emotional resonant in a gradually revelatory manner. Even though the movie runs an epic length of 153 minutes, it consistently holds your attention.

The first plot line, "Octavio and Susana", is about a love triangle that occurs between young Octavio, his abusive older brother Ramiro and Ramiro's wife Susana. Dog fighting is common sport in their downscale neighborhood, and the brothers own a rottweiler that's a natural aggressor in the fight pit. Octavio sees the dog as his meal ticket to steal Susana away from Ramiro and escape to Juarez. The second story, "Daniel and Valeria", focuses on Daniel, a married, guilt-ridden TV producer who buys a fancy new condo for him to live with his tempestuous supermodel girlfriend Valeria. Their relationship unravels in light of the car accident, and further complications occur when her little dog is trapped underneath the floorboards. The third story, "El Chivo and Maru", is about former political revolutionary El Chivo who has years ago left his family and became a hit man for hire. Living in squalor with a herd of homeless dogs, he is recruited by a businessman to kill his partner, both of whom turns out to be brothers. The integration of these stories is handled with supple dexterity in a non-linear fashion that allows the viewer to peel off the layers of the characters in order to understand their common dilemmas.

Unbelievably, this powderkeg of a film represents Iñárritu's feature film debut as a director, and his confidence and audacity are felt throughout although the third episode seems too deliberate a pastiche of "Pulp Fiction". He has assembled a superb cast with Emilio Echevarría the standout as the grizzled El Chivo, a scarifying vagrant who reveals himself to be a troubled soul who is the only one who successfully escapes his trying existence. In his first major role, Gael García Bernal portrays Octavio with escalating emotional fervor; and as Susana and Ramiro, Vanessa Bauche and Marco Pérez provide powerful support. Together, they generate a palpable sense of imminent violence throughout their episode. Goya Toledo makes a vivid impression as Valeria, fully capturing her spoiled character's misplaced sense of entitlement, while Alvaro Guerrero affectingly humanizes the put-upon Daniel's increasing regret. Just as he would prove later with "The Motorcycle Diaries", "Brokeback Mountain" and "Babel", Rodrigo Prieto showcases superbly evocative cinematography that is in keeping with the emotional shadings of the story.

The 2001 DVD provides a surprising number of extras beginning with an informative, often meticulous commentary track by Iñárritu and Arriaga (spoken in Spanish and subtitled in English). There are three quick featurettes. The first is a six-minute short that shows how the numerous dogs used in the film were trained and protected during the production. Considering how realistically violent the dog fighting scenes are, I find this short helpfully reassuring. The second is the standard, making-of featurette, about fifteen minutes long. Even though Iñárritu seems to be promoting the film as well as explaining the genesis of it, there is good behind-the-scenes footage, including some interesting table readings from the cast. This leads to one quick short about the staging of the car accident itself. Also included are about a dozen deleted scenes, totaling about fifteen minutes, which actually help provide context in understanding some of the characters' motivations. There are also three music videos from the movie's soundtrack, which is a dramatically effective mix of Mexican and Spanish rock-rap tracks.
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Love for dogs or for money?
esteban174712 May 2005
The director Alejandro González Iñárritu did an extraordinary thriller combining masterfully three different stories where fighting dogs are included, and also using the camera in tricky ways several times probably to increase the excitement. In Mexico there are many ways to earn money for survival in some cases or for lucrative purposes in others. There fights among animals are arranged regularly. In Mexico the so-called Palenques are famous where the people go to see fights between cocks, but also fights of dogs are organized in places less formal than Palenques. In both fights the people bet, some small money but others high sums. The film goes around this issue of fights between dogs, where obviously you have always a persistent dog champion, highly susceptible to be killed by other means in order to take it away. But the film is in fact about the misery of the humans, no matter if they are poor or rich. Amores Perros is an exceptional film, and a sample of the quality of several new-era films in Latin America, which may compete easily in their plots and depth with other films made in Europe and USA.
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Mexico shows its face
danielll_rs7 June 2003
AMORES PERROS is a perfect companion to the excellent Y TU MAMÁ TAMBIÉN as an example of how prolific Mexican cinema is. It was nominated for Best Film in a Foreign Language, but that was the year of the breathtaking epic CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON.

Like our Brazilian pride CITY OF GOD, AMORES PERROS is violent but you just can't take your eyes off. Disturbing but compelling. A memorable experience.

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glopglop6 May 2003
Having read all the hails on this feedback page I finally got myself the DVD. Alas, I must confess that while this movie might make some people gasp who have been on

Hollywood film-food for too many years, there is hardly anything that lifts this flick beyond what independent cinema has had on the menu for decades. Yes, the plot is all about human tragedies; yes, it incorporates first rate feelings such as love or loss; yes, it keeps you watching for more than 90 mins of your life BUT... What is the message? What new light does it cast on any aspect of our lives? While Amores Perros is certainly worth seeing, its impact vanishes within a day or two (unless you're some dogfight perv in which case you've definitely found your movie). Rather like some other latin american movies (I'm thinking of Y tu mama tambien, for example) this movie has great actors, great direction but lacks depth, meaning and relevance. All in all, Amores Perros is alright but so are hundreds of other movies. Don't get me wrong: IT IS A GOOD MOVIE but just don't expect a once-in-a-century-masterpiece (as hinted at in other people's comments on this page). Go see it if you've got the time or simply go bowling. Choose the latter if you want to lift your spirits.
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Panting Astrology
tedg7 February 2004
Warning: Spoilers
Spoilers herein.

I believe that the future of film is now firmly in the hands of Spanish-speaking filmmakers. Not that they make the best films, but that they have the current crop of ideas. We saw Italians introduce us to the notion that a camera can be tethered to the soul of a character and follow him around. This is still the standard of the much celebrated Scorsese.

The French were briefly interesting when to this they added the notion of reflexivity, where the mechanics of film-making became a character. Hollywood - in their more interesting films - extended this notion of folding to an amazing collection of ironic and self-referential devices.

Meanwhile, Spanish literature was long incubating a synthesis of fabulism within self- reference (Cervantes invented the notion) combined with earthy sensuality, sometimes natural energy.

So in contrast to the Scorsese-led `character' stuff, and the often mechanical Hollywood folding exercises, we get Spanish films from Medem, Almodovar and Garcia. Rodriguez is very much in this camp. And now this.

Yes, it is overly long and uneven. Yes it is artificially gritty and has some dishonest performances. But it is extremely well constructed, both on a dramatic and conceptual level.

Folding in this context is placed in the fantasy of rather than perspective or character.

Why give several stories? Taratino does because Kar Wai Wong does, and his motive is to bleach the story away and focus on the musical texture of the mood. But Garcia does it (`Ten Tiny Love Stories,' `Things You Can Tell By Just Looking at Her.') to synthesize a single entity out of many and a single larger context out of the many sketched situations.

The focus is on that larger context, and what magical dynamics are at work. It is pop cosmology as art drawn from drowning the soap opera content. It is new melodrama - melodrama is when the characters are puppets to external forces - with attention to interesting exposition and subterranean channels of those forces.

Fate. Dogs as astrological entities.

Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.
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