1.01.2017

From the archives: "Stitch by stitch"


When Alejandro Inarritu’s Amores Perros came out in 2001 it was on my radar but wasn’t a film I was particularly invested in seeing, until it began appearing on the end-of-the-year critics’ lists and then became an Oscar contender (for Best Foreign Film).  So I eventually felt compelled to check it out on Pay-Per-View (the only video-on-demand option that existed in 2002).  I ended up liking the film quite a bit more than I had expected to, as my review (probably written in January of 2002) indicates.  With its three interlocking stories and funny-shocking tone, it struck me as something of a rip-off of Tarantino; there were a lot of those going around in those days.  But I was particularly impressed with the middle segment, the story of a beautiful model left disfigured by a car accident, which reminded me of something out of Tales from the Crypt (later, when I re-watched the film in college, it struck me as almost Buñuelian):

Alvaro Guerrero and Goya Toledo try to rescue the dog under the floor in Amores Perros (2001).

“The car crash leaves her confined, at least temporarily, to a wheelchair, and she’s stuck in her brand-new apartment all afternoon with Richie, her frou-frou dog, while the boyfriend is at the office.  The hardwood floor of the apartment is in rough shape; there’s a gaping hole that Richie falls into and can’t get out of.  He disappears beneath the floor of the apartment, which is infested with rats.  Valeria and Daniel call him and lure him with chocolates, but nothing works—they hear him at night, scratching and clawing while they’re trying to sleep.  In the meanwhile, the lovers, once so blissful, turn bitter—as though Valeria’s accident has brought about all of this nightmare.  They scream at each other; she notices that she’s getting phone calls at home that are like the ones she used to make to his house when he was still married.  Is he having another affair?  She gets bad news that her modeling contract is being taken back now that she’s hurt.  And all the while, as days go by, the dog remains under the floor of the apartment, somewhere, clicking and whining in the night.  The tight, thirty-minute story is completely bizarre and totally suspenseful—watching it, I had no idea where it would go, but I knew that it wasn’t going to end happily.  [...]  ‘Valeria and Daniel’ feels almost Gothic in the way that it takes the happy rich and slowly rips their universe apart, stitch by stitch.  We feel tremendously uneasy as the tension mounts.  The uneasiness comes because we can feel something awful in the air, but we can’t place what it will be.  Its cruel ‘just desserts’-style twist has echoes of the ‘Eyes’ section from Night Gallery, and a scene of Daniel furiously ripping up the floorboards is like the final scene from The Conversation, with Gene Hackman tearing his apartment into pieces in search of the bug that he never finds.  It’s a miniature masterpiece of the unusual, and the best thing about the film.” 

"Almost Buñuelian": model in wheelchair and neck brace.
 

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