Cannes Review: Beautiful Biutiful

If the heart is a lonely hunter, the soul is is its desperate prey. There are so many things that can corrupt us in life, so many ways we can screw up our lives and it takes a firm resolve to beat those things back and be a right guy. Or girl. Most of the time, we are surrounded by, suffocated by and ultimately overwhelmed by our vices, or our torments. Biutiful is a film about the rare but vital goodness within us.

The title is the perfect metaphor: it isn’t spelled exactly right but the meaning is the same — and its beauty can’t be denied. Such is the rendering of the heroic, flawed character Uxbal played by Javier Bardem in one of his best performances yet, and certainly the best delivered here so far.

Uxbal is the the only thing keeping his two children stable and safe. Their manic/depressive alcoholic wife was deemed unfit to care for them and though Uxbal still loves her, clearly, it is a union that just can’t ever be. There is a parallel story of illegal immigrants from China and other parts of the world who must sleep 30 to a room and work on the streets. Uxbal divides his time between that world and the attempt at keeping stability at home. Neither is easy, neither is guaranteed to have a happy ending. In fact, but for a glimmer of hope here or there, these characters are most certainly doomed.

But despite this, Bardem’s character continues to move towards the good in people, in his children, in himself, even in his bizarre, druggy brother. In a couple of great scenes, Bardem must speak to his brother but the music is so loud they can’t hear each other. It’s a lovely, jarring way to express the disconnect there and, if you will, the gaping difference between good and bad choices in life – selfish and selfless choices.

The reaction so far here in Cannes has been mixed. I kind of think it matters how much life has kicked you around – I mean REALLY kicked you around. And probably having children to raise helps, particularly if you’ve ever felt like nothing could ever happen to you because what would happen to them.

This is a film about flawed people, much like all of this director’s work. The wife and the odd way she has about herself – how she isn’t traditionally pretty but is somehow alluring nonetheless. Her feet never touch the ground. She never stop moving or talking or smoking or smoldering. She is the flame, he is the moth.

Illusions and imaginings fill up the spaces in the film — Bardem’s character sees moths, in fact, backing up that visual metaphor. He sees the dead as shapes on the ceiling, and hears the whispering of the dying. It is reminiscent of the short story by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings and has echoes of magic realism throughout. Bardem’s character is a bit like an angel, even if he is also a flawed human.

This isn’t a film that will set the crowds here at Cannes on fire. But I feel it has lasting value beyond the flash in the pan sensibilities that do well in this short, intense run of films.

As the film comes to a haunting, gentle close, it becomes clear that life isn’t something you can do alone; you have to be willing to find trustworthy people, and have faith that they won’t let you down. And every so often, they come through.

Uxbal is the the only thing keeping his two children stable and safe. Their manic/depressive alcoholic wife was deemed unfit to care for them and though Uxbal still loves her, clearly, it is a union that just can’t ever be. There is a parallel story of illegal immigrants from China and other parts of the world who must sleep 30 to a room and work on the streets. Uxbal divides his time between that world and the attempt at keeping stability at home. Neither is easy, neither is guaranteed to have a happy ending. In fact, but for a glimmer of hope here or there, these characters are most certainly doomed.

But despite this, Bardem’s character continues to move towards the good in people, in his children, in himself, even in his bizarre, druggy brother. In a couple of great scenes, Bardem must speak to his brother but the music is so loud they can’t hear each other. It’s a lovely, jarring way to express the disconnect there and, if you will, the gaping difference between good and bad choices in life – selfish and selfless choices.

The reaction so far here in Cannes has been mixed. I kind of think it matters how much life has kicked you around – I mean REALLY kicked you around. And probably having children to raise helps, particularly if you’ve ever felt like nothing could ever happen to you because what would happen to them.

This is a film about flawed people, much like all of this director’s work. The wife and the odd way she has about herself – how she isn’t traditionally pretty but is somehow alluring nonetheless. Her feet never touch the ground. She never stop moving or talking or smoking or smoldering. She is the flame, he is the moth.

Illusions and imaginings fill up the spaces in the film — Bardem’s character sees moths, in fact, backing up that visual metaphor. He sees the dead as shapes on the ceiling, and hears the whispering of the dying. It is reminiscent of the short story by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings and has echoes of magic realism throughout. Bardem’s character is a bit like an angel, even if he is also a flawed human.

This isn’t a film that will set the crowds here at Cannes on fire. But I feel it has lasting value beyond the flash in the pan sensibilities that do well in this short, intense run of films.

As the film comes to a haunting, gentle close, it becomes clear that life isn’t something you can do alone; you have to be willing to find trustworthy people, and have faith that they won’t let you down. And every so often, they come through.

1 Comment on this Post

  1. Hi,

    I like your review, and I agree with most of what you wrote. But I do not understand why you felt the characters were flawed. I would like to know what you meant by flawed.

    Regards

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