Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Academy Screening #9: Biutiful

Best Actor: Biutiful

Will it win? No. 

Should it have been nominated? It was a good performance, but were there not four better ones?

I like that Alejandro Innaritu focuses on small, passing things: ants on a window, moths on a wall, a blink from Javier Bardem, snow in the air or birds in the air. I do not like that at least two things on that list were computer generated, mainly because they are made prominent enough to catch my attention, yet unrealistic enough to lose it. And I don't think Innaritu was going for a marvelous, fantastical look that calls up the artifice of the mystical aspects of his film. He tries to be a very human filmmaker, which I appreciate, and Bardem embodies his struggling human well. Bardem's face consumes the screen, his features are enormous and the man can certainly hold a film together. If you were being generous, you would say that Bardem is the hub of the movie and the numerous stories that surround him -- his children, his relationship with his wife, the ghosts, the cancer, the sweat shop, the African ware-hockers -- all trace back to the great weight he carries around as a man nearing death. If you didn't feel that generosity, you would say that the film would have been better had any one or two of those threads been seen through with the same care shown to Bardem's own performance, and the rest left on the cutting room. 

I was, frankly, bored most of the movie. Though even then I'm glad I saw it. There haven't been many Academy screenings I thoroughly liked, but a number of them had moments that I have never seen or heard on film before. "Biutiful" continues this trend. The film opens in a snowy forest, and Bardem talks to a man. The man describes the landscape and makes the sound of salt water waves and the sound of wind. Each noise is strange and lovely. Later, Bardem asks him to do both at once, and the sound is silly and funny. The man's face contorts in swirls. Bardem smiles and laughs a little in the snow.

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