Sunday, 10 November 2013


Biutiful – Alejendro Gonzalez Inarritu – Javier Bardem is without question a strong and commanding screen presence. Whether sporting a psychopathic bowl cut in his menacing role for No Country for Old Men, or perfecting the European bohemiam/ roguish Casanova appeal in Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Bardem has an innate and magnetic ability to convince. And then there is that face: strong lines of weathered experience with just a dash of ‘haggard hardship,’ ensuring that whatever he does is lent a deep and natural authenticity. So, yep, I am unreservedly a Javier Bardem advocate! Biutiful places Bardem unrelentingly at the centre of the film, he appears in the vast majority of shots. It is the story of one father’s struggle, through poverty, bad luck, illness and marital break up to support his children and endure the hard hand life has dealt. It is, without a doubt, unremittingly bleak. Tragedy upon tragedy mounts until the viewer is left drooping with the same world-weary burden that the film depicts, I found myself hoping (in vain) for just a glimpse of light relief or distracting frivolity! The film is framed (in its opening and ending) with two beautifully crafted and oneiric scenes-both saddled with the hefty pondering of mortality. Javier Bardem’s performance is astounding; it keeps the film from becoming too tiresome in its misery through his sheer natural charisma, a gift which keeps this downbeat spiral a compelling and arresting experience. It would not be a film to recommend lightly due to its relentlessly miserable narrative, but, on top of Bardem’s brilliance, it cannot be denied that Inarritu has produced a brilliantly shot and moving cinematic vision. Barcelona is uniquely evoked, a claustrophobic and decaying urban sprawl; the pervasive gloom is sporadically punctuated with poetic shots (ants climbing, Moths shuffling on a ceiling, billowing smoke, sun spilling a golden light through dry grass) that arrive like precious epiphanies or cryptic omens; the soundtrack draws from an appropriately downbeat electronic and ambient soundscape; the narrative has delicately woven into scenes in which we observe the supernatural, the nightmarish and the visionary, but never in sensationalism or graphic drama. It is a memorable, beautifully shot and poetic film, but undeniably, and at times overbearingly, bleak. 8/10

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