Sound Investitures

Sembène's movie shares another trait with a particular strain of post-utopian socialist realism, namely the absence of conflict. Sembène does not ignore the social tensions between rich and poor, Christian and Muslim, African and European, male and female, parent and child. But just as each problem presents a didactic opportunity for Kine's healthy wisdom to prevail, so every image of clean, spacious, prosperous Dakar echoes the sublime order she seems to radiate. (The screen vibrates with the purity of the primary colors Sembène employs; in keeping with the posterlike aesthetic, the performances are declamatory as well.)

Such narrative as there is suggests a minimalist soap opera in which people from Kine's past keep popping up for a bit of comic reeducation. Faat-Kine is in every way a sunny film. Supremely affirmative, it ends with the funniest, sexiest close-up of the year: Having finally decided upon a suitable mate, Kine welcomes him to her with outstretched arms and wiggling toes.

Cloak and dagger: Rush and Brosnan in The Tailor of Panama
photo: Jonathan Hession
Cloak and dagger: Rush and Brosnan in The Tailor of Panama


The Tailor of Panama
Directed by John Boorman
Written by Boorman and Andrew Davies, from the novel by John le Carr
A Columbia release
Opens March 30

Written and directed by Ousmane Sembne
A New Yorker release in cooperation with California Newsreel
Film Forum
March 18 Through April 10

Amores Perros
Directed by Alejandro Gonzlez Irritu
Written by Guillermo Arriaga
A Lions Gate release
Opens March 30

Given the bruising camerawork, convoluted chronology, and overall brutal gusto that characterizes Amores Perros, anyone watching Alejandro González Iñárritu's first feature—a critical hit at the last New York Film Festival—might be pardoned for imagining that the title might be Spanish for Reservoir Dogs. In fact, it's "Love's a Bitch."

If it bleeds, it leads. Opening with a mad car chase careening through downtown Mexico City and then the intersection collision that proves to be the key event in the three interlocked but successively recounted stories, Amores Perros is undeniably high-powered. At 153 minutes, it's also punishingly overlong. The movie's first episode, a squalid brother-versus-brother slum drama about a prize-fighting dog, is a genuine throat grabber, but the orchestrated tumult more than exhausts the resources of the filmmaker's style. Although canines figure throughout, along with grizzled hit men and neurotic celebrities, the movie is not for pet lovers. Its most memorable image—a punch line, no less—is a gore-drenched mess of dead dogs. (The movie's end-credit disclaimer that no animals were injured might be construed as a post?punch line.)

In a stone rave, The New York Times called Amores Perros "one of the first art films to come out of Mexico since Buñuel worked there." It hardly matters whether or not this was written in ignorance of the 30-year oeuvre of Arturo Ripstein, the internationally known films of Jaime Humberto Hermosillo and Paul Leduc, the outsider movies produced by Nicolás Echevarría, recent efforts by younger directors like Dana Rotberg and Luis Estrada, or even the work of cult filmmakers Alejandro Jodorowsky and Juan Lopez Moctezuma. What's suggestive is the total redefinition of "art film" in American terms.

Related article:

Michael Atkinson's article about Film Forum's Sembène retrospective

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