Thursday, February 08, 2007

Babel (2006)

I can pinpoint the exact moment this film falls apart. It's in the scene where the Moroccan authorities are beating up the peasant who sells the gun in the first scene. When the main cop produces a photograph and asks the peasant if this is the man who gave him the gun, that's when Babel loses its right to be taken seriously. Before that, it's a modestly successful social-tapestry film, heavy on the angst but with some decent moments and a fierce performance by Rinko Kikuchi as a sexually frustrated deaf-mute teenager. That's not enough for director Alejandro González Iñárritu and screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga, though -- their film has to be Significant! That's why we get the ludicrous "photo" scene because, you know, we're all connected or some shit like that. That the film goes from engaging to silly after that is no surprise; that it later descends further into mean and risible is less predictable and quite unfortunate. (When you really look at the films he's written, it's apparent that Arriaga has a vicious sadistic streak within him.) Some fine acting in each of the four threads can't save this overdetermined attempt at message-mongering; I think that I am now officially sick of this genre. Oh Magnolia, what hath thou wrought?

Grade: C-


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