Inarritu: the “biuitiful” side of storytelling

CANNES, France (AP) — Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu is keeping it simple for once. The master of intersecting storylines on Monday delivered a pared-down new movie with a linear plot, stripped of all its bells and whistles. “Biutiful” stars Javier Bardem as a father of two making ends meet by acting as business middleman for African and Chinese immigrants in Barcelona. Unlike Inarritu’s previous efforts — including critical favorites “Amores Perros” and “Babel,” which divided on-screen time between the protagonists of the various tangled plotlines — “Biutiful” focuses unblinkingly on Bardem.

It was really a challenge. Basically, ‘Biutiful’ is everything that I haven’t done before in a way, but is exactly the same, (about) the same things that obsess me,” said the Mexican-born director. His obsessions? Death and the complexities of our intersecting, globalized lives. Bardem delivers a remarkable performance as Uxbal — a man plagued by death.

It doggedly follows the Oscar-winning Spanish actor’s character as he coddles and cajoles his children, struggles to keep a healthy distance form his estranged, bipolar wife and alternatively defends and menaces the immigrants he works with. “I was exhausted with, and thought I had explored enough multiple lines and structures of narratives and I was tired of that,” Inarritu said at a news conference that followed Monday’s screening at the Cannes Film Festival, where “Biutiful” is one of 19 movies competing for the festival’s top Palme d’Or prize. “I want now to go into the rigor that the linear story demands for you as a story teller.

An orphan from early childhood, he earns extra cash by visiting funeral homes and communicating with the recent dead. As if that didn’t suffice, he’s diagnosed with terminal cancer and finds himself obliquely responsible for a terrible tragedy plucked from the newspaper headlines. It’s a devastating movie but manages to be oddly life-affirming. “This character, (Uxbal) is tenderness, he’s compassion, he’s forgiveness, to himself first and to everyone around,” said Inarritu. Uxbal “is full of light. … He’s full of forgiveness, which I think is a key word for what we are missing in this world.”

“I found that really hopeful, in my point of view … the most hopeful of my films, by far,” said Inarritu, who won the Best Director prize at Cannes in 2006 for “Babel,” four intense intersecting stories set in Morocco, Japan, Mexico and the U.S. Like “Babel” and 2000’s “Amores Perros” — a critical favorite at Cannes that catapulted Inarritu from relative obscurity into the top ranks of contemporary filmmakers — “Biutiful” also looks at globalization’s effects on those living on the margins of society. Set in the dilapidated Barcelona neighborhoods where the city’s newest arrivals, immigrants from Africa and China, have largely replaced the local poor over the past decade, the movie documents their daily lives.

“The fact that the film is human, and talks about human things that are real, it’s already a hopeful film,” he said. “Why? Because we don’t find that very often now. … Explosions, cynicism, killing people and violence in a very superficial way, is that life? Is that hopeful? Is that funny? I don’t find it” so, he said. “In this world we are living of twitting and e-mailing … this film is a truly intimate experience,” he said. “And intimacy it’s now the new punk — it’s provocative, it provokes people.”

Courtesy of J.Barchfield

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