Today we explore a critically acclaimed foreign film that holds equal parts drama, art, crime and even the supernatural. It’s a film some describe as a study in melancholy. I’m talking about “Biutiful,” the Spanish-language film available on DVD now.
It’s been said that the key to a powerful story is creating a character and putting them through every bad thing imaginable. González Iñárritu must subscribe to that belief. He’s the director and one of the screenwriters of “Biutiful”.
The film stars Javier Bardem as a player in the grimy criminal underworld of modern day Barcelona. His character, Uxbal, is making shady deals with Chinese and Senegalese illegals while supporting his two young children. His bipolar ex-wife is little help to him, his brother is in his own world, there are corrupt policemen to pay off, and just when things can’t possibly get worse, Uxbal is diagnosed with cancer. He’s got months to live at best.
What do you do when you face a quick death at the end of an immoral life?
What do you do when you’re the only one in the world your children can depend on? The film follows Uxbal’s choices in that very situation.
The cinematography of “Biutiful” seems to be out to find the most gorgeous elements amidst the darkest, grittiest places. The film reminds viewers that life is beautiful, even when it’s unfair.
There is an incredible authenticity to this film and to Bardem’s acting, which is the best of his career.
Two of the coolest elements of the film are the supernatural component and what I like to call the way the director really shows off. Uxbal is psychic and can see the spirits of the dead after they’ve passed. This thread reminds viewers how much more closely in tune some countries are to death than we tend to be in the United States. Even in Panama, where my mother is from, funerals can be more intense and intimate than what we are used to in the West.
As for the director showing off, his first two scenes, which make little sense at the opening of the film, also are the final two scenes. Now that’s skill.
I’m a fan, but be warned, there are subtitles, disturbing images and some bad language in “Biutiful.”