Amores Perros (2000) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Quite a few people compared this Mexican film to Pulp Fiction, and I guess that the comparison has some basis in structure. In essence, the film is a wheel built around a hub. The hub, shown immediately as the film begins and then again several times during the film, is a car crash. From that hub, we see three spokes pushing out in several directions, all involving people (and dogs) who came together in that crash. One of the spokes moves to the past, and covers a story that essentially ends with the crash. One of the spokes moves to the future, and covers a story that takes place almost completely after the crash. The third story occurs before and after the crash, showing how the crash changed the lives of the participant. There is some overlap and intersection in the stories, but not much. 
One of the cars contained two aimless street boys and a fighting dog.

The second car contained a supermodel whose career was destroyed by the crash.

The third story was about an amoral homeless man who is a professional killer, a former guerilla fighter. In the general confusion, he removed money and the injured fighting dog from the scene of the accident. 


the only nudity was a few fleeting looks at the breasts of Vanessa Bauche 
 Apart form certain structural similarities, this is not a Tarantino clone, for several reasons:

1. The entire point of the genre of pulp fiction is escapist fantasy, featuring characters like Tarzan, Conan, the re-animator, Sam Spade, and over-the-top gangsters. Nothing in a pulp novel or movie ever has happened or ever could. The characters never have existed and presumably never will. They exist in a special universe where the guys are extra tough, and the blondes are extra curvy and dangerous. The entire genre is a masturbatory fantasy for 12 year old boys of all ages, and is not meant to be taken any more seriously than this week's issue of Weekly World News. Amores Perros is not really escapist material. It is gritty street drama based on real life in Mexico City.

2. Tarantino's films, and films which he has inspired, are not about the world at all. A character in Pulp Fiction has no knowledge of the history of the world, except what has been portrayed in the films. Other films represent his universe. Nobody in a Tarantino film should remind you of anyone you have even known. Rather, they remind you of other fictional characters. That is the post-modernist world they inhabit. Amores Perros is not in that world. It is violent, but it is not really sensationalist violence. It bears less resemblance to a Tarantino film than it does to an inner-city emergency room on Friday night.

3. Pulp novels and films are entertainments, with no deep thoughts to impart. This movie has a lot of thinking behind it. Some examples:

a. Why do all of the major characters care most of all for dogs, and not other humans? There's a message there about the modern world.

b. Consider the plight of the supermodel's boyfriend. He leaves his wife and daughters for a perfect life with a beautiful supermodel and her supermodel earnings, in an elegant penthouse, amid the glitter of parties and media focus. After the accident shatters her career, he is stuck taking care of a deeply depressed one-legged woman who can't bear to be alone, doesn't look good, and is gradually turning her self-hatred against him, despite his devotion. 

c. Consider the homeless man. He loves dogs, and is surrounded by them. He nurses the fighting dog back to health, and what does he get for his trouble? The first time he leaves the dogs alone, the fighting dog kills all his other dogs. All of a sudden he is confronted with an animal that seems to have no other purpose than to kill others of his species. And then he realizes that he and the dog are a lot alike. Soul mates. 

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Widescreen anamorphic, 1.85:1

  • Full-length production commentary

  • three featurettes on how the film was made: dog training, the crash, the actors

 Did I mention that it is a helluva good movie? Dramatic visuals, interesting musical score. In a more typical year, this might have won the Oscar for best foreign-language film, but it obviously had no chance to compete with the juggernaut that was Crouching Tiger.

The only real complaint that I have is that I think I missed a lot of the flavor of it. I'm generally OK with Spanish-language movies when it's Castillian Spanish, or when the characters are from educated families, or when the dialects aren't too heavy, but many of these characters spoke a kind of vulgar urban street dialect that left me lost half of the time, looking for the sub-titles. Imagine a street rapper, except in Spanish. And from what I could understand, the sub-titles may not always have gotten the flavor right. If you just don't like subtitled movies, you can choose a dubbed track instead, but I didn't get a chance to try that.

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: three stars. Ebert 3.5/4, Berardinelli 3/4, Apollo 69/100.

  • Rotten Tomatoes summary. 89% favorable reviews, and an even more impressive 94% from the inner circle

  • nominated for an Oscar for best foreign language film

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 8.2 
  • With their dollars ... it did a pretty solid $5 million in the USA, good for a serious, sub-titled, 2 1/2 hour film
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, I'd say C+. Not really for mainstream filmgoers, but a beautifully structured, poetic, and often touching piece of gritty urban drama

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