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Life is “Biutiful”

Life+is+Biutiful
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A fresh take on life from the director of Amores Perros Credit: Universal Pictures

An important lesson, needless to say, and one very apparent in Spanish director Alejandro González Iñárritu‘s latest film, Biutiful.

The value of life, and the appreciation all humans should have for it, is expressed through the experiences of Uxbal (Javier Bardem), a middle-aged father of two living in Barcelona, Spain.
Uxbal, a man deeply involved in the seedy underworld of Barcelona, is diagnosed with terminal cancer and given only months to live. Driven to right his wrongs before death, Uxbal spends his last weeks of life attempting to repair his troubled past.What precipitates is a story that is both tragic and tender; the images of a man attempting to give his children all he has to offer before his untimely death. His children, Mateo (Guillermo Estrella) and Ana (Hanaa Bouchaib), play their parts so believably that they seem real.
At the same time, Uxbal’s struggle to find a middle-ground between his drug and alcohol addicted ex-wife, Marambra (Maricel Alvarez), and her love for their children constantly pulls him in yet another emotional direction. This goes without mentioning the myriad of other problems he is forced to face, often with similarly tragic results.While the story told is certainly powerful, and the performances given are great, this tidal wave of  unceasing woe and misery begins to take a toll on the believability and realism of the film after a while-becoming so overwhelming at times that it feels contrived. The numerous deaths and disasters in the film fall in an endless domino effect that leads one thing after another.

The cinematography and composition of each shot retains a sort of guerrilla, hand-held quality, making one feel immersed in the events unfolding around the various characters. The vantage point maintained by the camera gives the illusion of walking with those onscreen.

With most of the shots taken at the level of the actors, this becomes apparent very quickly. No boom-shots, aerial views, or other “fancy” film techniques are employed, just a simple narrative told by the steady hand of the cameraman.The lighting and composition of the film is simple, to say the least, with many of the scenes taking advantage of the natural light provided at a given location. This neither seems to add or detract from the overall beauty of the film; it simply provides a look fundamentally different from that of many Hollywood pictures.
To put it simply, Biutiful retains many of the qualities similar to the Dogme 95 film movement of promoting compelling writing and storytelling through filmmaking rather than the spectacles of cinematography many Americans have come to know
In the end, the film makes a rather miraculous rebound and ends in a fashion that is uncertain, but somehow strangely hopeful. And with a small amount of  reflection, its easy to find oneself eventually understanding the reasoning behind the endless story of sorrow with the message (which I won’t spoil for you) becoming abundantly clear in the end.
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