Who Let the Dogs Out?
I cant presume that the Mexico
City Chamber of Commerce is going to be thrilled with Amores Perros, one of the
nominees for Best Foreign Film at the Oscars last year. The film portrays the worlds
largest city as a place where the poor are equated with rats, the middle class are scrappy
mercenaries, and the rich deserve their violent fates. This might sound somewhat
unpleasant, but the frantic pace and the melodramatic tone of the film make for a deep and
provocative character study.
Ground zero is a car wreck in the rush hour of downtown.
Its a pretty ugly scene, and it gets uglier every time the audience witnesses. And
we get to see it from each of the three main characters. There is El Chivo (Echevarria), a
homeless guy with a shady past and a whole lot of stray dogs that follow him around. And
then theres Valeria (Toleda), a supermodel with a crisis and a really prissy dog
(who also has a crisis.). Finally, we get to Octavio (Garcia), a guy who has the hots for
his brothers girlfriend and has a very angry dog. The film cuts back and forth
between all of these stories in the Tarantino mode, showing us details that we did not see
earlier and motivations that would have been unlikely.
But in the case of this film, as opposed to the endless
amounts of Pulp Fiction-esque films of the past seven years, the narrative focus is
more interested in the nuances of the characters. Its really not fair to go into the
nitty gritty of these people and their thought process, except I really need to brag on
the way the flick uses the title animals in order to accentuate relationships. Octavio,
the guy who digs his future sister-in-law, takes his brothers dog to the fights in
order to raise money for an escape from the family household. Valerias dog becomes a
victim quite in the same way her owner has, and El Chivo s swarm of dogs represent
the baggage of his past mistakes. Its kind of like Best in Show, except a lot
more sad and just a tad bit more desperate.
And all of that makes it sound pretty depressing
as well, so let me digress once again by saying that the film takes a lot of fun and
energy in telling its stories without losing the edge. Indeed, some of the best moments in
the film play like the soap operas where Selma Hayek received her start. Every character
has a love lost or a love to strive for. Love IS a bitch, the filmmakers tell us,
but it is also a force that can drive people beyond things like dreams and plans.
"Plans are what we tell God so He can have a good laugh," one character says at
a pivotal moment. Now, isnt that an absurdly tragic line. And Amores Perros is
one of those few films that can exist in both worlds. A world where the tragic and the
absurd are blurred.
* FOOTNOTE: This is an awkwardly timed review. For anyone reading this outside of the
fly over states, Amores Perros is probably long gone. And for everyone else, who is
about 99 percent of our readership, this film is only playing in select, cultural astute
college towns in the area like Lawrence, KS or Columbia, MO. If any of these said readers
get the chance, please for the love of everything holy, go check this film out. It will
give you a chance to check out a quality flick and maybe these film distributors will
figure out that there are at least a few of us out here who are willing to spend five
bucks to read stuff at the bottom of a screen. Unless youre Jon Stewart, and
wouldnt spend five bucks to read anything except Peoples Celebrity