, 11 May 2012
I finally managed to gather my courage to see Biutiful, having been put off for weeks by the reviews of a majority of critics, which generally slam this film as too bleak and unsettling to watch. On the contrary, I found it to be an absorbing, deeply engaging, sobering and compassionate meditation of life in modern-day Spain that we hardly know about: the hopeless lives of the less privileged half of our compatriots in Europe, a continent we indiscriminately boast of as part of the developed world.
What irritates me most about our mainstream critics, who get paid for the junk they ceaselessly puke, is that they expect each and every film to be a thrill ride. If that must be the general rule, cinema would stagnate without expanding its horizons through the creative experimentation of gifted, young filmmakers and would instead continue to be dominated by Hollywood and Bollywood. Groundbreaking movies like Biutiful therefore require the attention and patronage from the true lovers of world cinema, so as to encourage the sadly parched crop of youthful, new talent to shine and to elevate cinema to the present century and beyond.
The Mexican, writer-director Alejandro González Iñárritu, with his astonishing portfolio of award winning films like Amores Perros , 21 Grams  and Babel , is a better celebrated spearhead of this pack of creative talent, and this film is further testament to his lucidly infinite imagination. Shot largely in natural light and seamlessly constructed in sequences that are introduced through stunning but meditative visuals of life outside the storyline bustling away, the film manifests as an otherworldly poem which transcends the boundaries of earthly reality. This is further supplemented by the superb score by Gustavo Santaolalla, which beautifully integrates with the visual content. The film opens with a prologue in which a carefully composed image of a maritime woodland grabs our attention. It first appears as a two dimensional still, like a painting on a wall, and then transforms to a moving image with depth. The same image reappears at the end of the film in an epilogue to conclude this heartrending story.
With his enormous screen presence and limitless talent, Javier Bardem cements this story together with yet another blistering performance as the hapless father who is trying his desperate best to bring up two young kids, in the frequent absence of their mentally ill mother. Though deeply involved in the Catalonian underworld of piracy, fake goods and exploitation of illegal immigrants, he is not the moron that one would expect from a streetwise, petty criminal. Instead, he is a compassionate and conscientious man who would go out of his way to help and protect the very immigrants whom his motley syndicate is exploiting. He is as tolerant and stable as a bedrock despite the personal upheaval he is going through, being understanding about the manic depressive behaviour of his wife, beyond what is humanely possible. To make the character even more complex, he also has psychic abilities, which appear to help him converse with the dead and thereby to make a few Euros on the side by frequenting funeral parlours in the neighbourhood.
Ultimately, the film is about the disadvantaged, who are surviving penniless in an uncaring world, but without losing their humanity and compassion. It is therefore a movie about redemption, in preparation for the certain death that we all face sooner or later!
Biutiful is an example of world cinema at its creative best and, contrary to what the critics are saying, is not a bleak tearjerker, but rather is a realistic, thought provoking and strangely uplifting contemplation of life as we know it.
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