6 - Tuesday, February 22, 2011 ..
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
Less 'Biutiful' the fourth time
lnsrritu brings tired themes of death and
suffering to newest Bardem film
By Timothy Rabb I Daily Arts Writer
After a landmark career as
the first Mexican director to be
nominated for .an Oscar, having
and a signifi-
cant following Biutiful
in several coun-
tries, Alejandro At the State
ritu has come Focus
full circle with
"Biutiful." But it's not one of
those good circles that round out
a standout filmography. It's an
endless cycle of death, despera-
tion and despondency that runs
the same tedious course with no
hope of divergence.
Just like he did with the
monolithic skyscrapers of
Mexico City, the desert plains
of Morroco and the crowded
streets of urban Japan, Ifisrritu
underscores every sordid corner
of Barcelona and drains his cin-
ematic world of all natural light.
A murky haze hangs in the air,
no one smiles, prayers are never
answered, babies cry perpetu-
ally and no cloud has even a hint
of silver lining.:
Uxbal (Javier Bardem, "No
Country for Old Men") is a devot-
ed father of two and the dis-
graced husband of a prostitute.
He lives week to week by hustling
working immigrants and bribing
cops to look the other way. When
he learns that he has an aggres-
sive form of cancer that will kill
him in only two months, he races
to get his affairs in order and find
his children a more suitable care-
taker than their birthmother.
Even before he knows his life's
deadline, Uxbal is a burdened
man. His bipolar wife refuses Sadder than Sad Keanu.
medication and cheats on him
with numerous men - including to watch him splayed in agony on
Uxbal's own brother - during her a medieval torture rack.
manic episodes. He is constantly "Biutiful" would seem an
hauntedby the voices of the dead, unfitting title were it not for
especially the voice of a father he the painstaking "cinematic Ian-
never met. And the cops are only guage" - mentioned by many
a minor annoyance short of kill- a critic - that colors Inirritu's
ing his entire business operation work. An owl lies dead and half-
and leaving him with no way to buried in sand, ants crawl up a
provide for his children. In short, glass mosaic and cockroaches
he's a principled man against huddle together upside down on
whom the universe has a brutal a dark ceiling. The picturesque
vendetta, and we pay ten dollars imagery is a graceful comple-
ment to a well composed film.
But this pastel of cinematic
devices would be better suited
to paint a Corot landscape than
a Kevorkian death poster.
The irony of the grim premise
is already obvious before see-
ing the movie. Sfirritu's first
three films - "Amores Perros,"
"21 Grams" and "Babel" - were
part of what was referred to as
the "Death Trilogy," a riveting
depiction of death and its conse-
quences. So how to take his lat-
est story in a new direction? The
simple answer is, with new char-
acters and a new setting. It's hard
to use the whole "companion
piece" exemption to defend the
familiar themes that ruin "Biuti-
ful" and waste Bardem's acting
chops. Really, the whole affair
is a melodramatic "Saw" install-
ment, except in lieu of average
feature length you'll get to cringe
for two-and-a-half hours.
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RELEASE DATE- Tuesday, February 22, 2011
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Edited by Rich Norris and Joyce Nichols Lewis
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From Page 5.
she whines that her "baby
doesn't love (her) anymore" and
how confused this makes her feel
in bizarre pitches and scales, it's
difficult to feel sympathetic. It
might be a more natural reaction
to ask, "What the hell was that?"
The rest of the tracks are just
as puzzling. Though the instru-
mentals are pleasing in places -
like the electrifying synthesizer
in "In My Head" or the psyche-
delic keyboard of "Deep Weird
Sleep" - there is a disjointed
feeling in the songs as a whole.
Some parts shine individually
but are thrown together in a
thoughtless way, each competing
to be the tracks' center of focus.
When paired with the overpow-
ering coos and strange tones of
the vocals, the album sounds
more like noise than music; it's
a frenzied static of instruments
lacking a cleargoal or melody.
While Asobi Seksu describes
its music as "experimental
dream pop," it's frightening
to imagine the kind of dream
this album describes. Garbled
in its messy sounds and irritat-
ing vocals, Fluorescence would
be a better soundtrack to a
drug-induced panic attack than
the gentle waves of the REM
cycle. There might just be a line
between experimental music
and white noise; if so, Asobi
Seksu has stumbled over it with
clumsy, cumbersome strides.
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