Seen that!

A film and DVD blog

Biutiful (2010)

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Concept: Survival is not always easy or possible

If Spain is unlucky enough to have a Daily Mail/Express equivalent, Javier Bardem would be one of their hate figures. He is trying to help at least two groups of illegal immigrants survive in Barcelona – for a cut. He's also a paid psychic, is dying, and has two kids who will need to be looked after by someone. Does it all go well? Of course not…

What's good: The performances. Bardem got the 'Best Actor' award at Cannes (albeit shared) and nominations for the Academy Award and BAFTA awards, but they're all very, very good.

The atmosphere – this is the mean streets of Barcelona, rather than anything the tourist board would like to show.

Some of the short-hand film-making, like showing Bardem's psychic ability or his history of drug use, is great. There's no need to show that he's right about the watch, for example, because we are never in any doubt that he's right. Does his daughter have the gift too? I think so, simply based on the way that a conversation carries on after his lips have stopped moving.

What's not so good: The story-telling. We see how economical director Alejandro González Iñárritu can be, so why is so much of it so dragged out?

The big life-changing incident is not a surprise. Show something ordinary twice and it's obvious that something very different will happen the third time.

Music: A mix of atmospheric score, borrowed music and some deliberately discordant annoying noises.

Miscellany: IMDb reckons this took 14 months to edit.

The DVD sleeve says 'From the director of Amores perros, 21 Grams and Babel' – what it doesn't say is that all of those are better than this.

Overall: With such strong acting and a gritty hand-held documentary look, it's an enormous shame that the film as made is 30-50 minutes too long and that the story is treated so badly. It's a rule of thumb that a film needs to be about the most dramatic part of someone's life, and this is. You have a psychic who knows he's dying soon and needs to worry about what to do with his kids as well as failing to help two groups of people failing to survive in the city. There's a much better film to be made with that, even if it will not have such a strong set of performances.

How much of a missed opportunity is this film? Well…

TL;DR It is easy to imagine a remake being better

Film: 2.5/5
DVD: 4/5

Interviews, trailers – making it look a lot more exciting plus showing what we never see: what they're going towards in the forest scene that tops and tails the film – and notes.

Written by Ian

December 29th, 2011 at 9:56 pm

Posted in Cinema,DVDs

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