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Amores Perros - Review by Carla Freccero

Now playing at the Nickleodeon in Santa Cruz, Amores Perros—infelicitously translated as “Love’s a Bitch”—is directed by first-time former DJ turned director, Alejandro González Iñárritu.  Nothing about this film suggests the novice status of its director (except perhaps its excessive length), and the movie has been nominated for an Oscar in the Best Foreign Film category.

It is the story of several people whose lives briefly and literally collide on the occasion of a car accident. It is also a story about men and their dogs that generates a series of metaphors you could sum up in commonplaces such as “it’s a dog’s life,” or “dog eat dog,” not to mention “all men are dogs.”  There are two poor brothers, younger and older, and the older brother’s wife, whom the younger one loves and lusts after.  There’s a middle class man who leaves his wife and children for a glamorous perfume model.   Finally, there’s a homeless man who wanders the streets of Mexico City with a shopping cart and a pack of docile canines.  Gael García Bernal (the younger brother) watches dog fights and discovers one day when his loveable rottweiler escapes and has to defend himself against a pit bull that the dog is a ferocious  champion killer.  So he decides to make money with him.  This dog, Cofi, acts as a parable for the homeless man, El Chivo (Emilio Echevarria) and leads him to make some unexpected changes in his life.

I suspect people are worried that this movie will set off a rash of illicit dogfighting competitions and that pit bulls and rottweilers  will have to go on suffering because of the prevailing winds of testosterone.  Debuting here hard on the heels of the fatal dog attack on Diane Whipple, one of the things this movie suggests is that we might want to drop the dogs are men and men are dogs metaphor.  Remember the story of the Central Park jogger whose attackers were referred to as a wolf pack?  Too much human violence gets naturalized this way, and too many dogs are enlisted for the cause.  Meanwhile, gender also seems to be the casualty:  in this movie, the women are barely there or they are willing victims, fickle, faithless, silly or hopelessly idealized in their virginal purity.

This is, nevertheless, an interesting film, in spite of its flaws and its length.  The non-linear narrative threads are creatively and unusually woven together, while the scenes are beautifully shot. Although there’s something strange about how El Chivo turns into a harsh god (of anti-capitalism among other things) in the end, nevertheless it’s a movie that for the most part resists easy moralizing conclusions, exploring instead difficult and complex situations while also offering a context in which to think about them:  poverty, violence, the desperate desire to better one’s situation. Looking for trouble at the movies, for KUSP and the film gang, this is Carla Freccero.

c 2001 Carla Freccero