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Simon K Jones
Force: 27955 | Joined: 1st Jan 2002 | Posts: 11683
- Title: Babel (2-disc edition)
- Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu
- Cast: Brad Pitt, Rinko Kikuchi, Adriana Barraza, Boubker Ait El Caid
- Running time: 143 minutes
- Cert: 15 (UK)
- Release: Out now
Following the much-lauded Amores Perros and 21 Grams, Mexican director Iñárritu returns with Babel, an epic, continent-hopping snapshot of four vastly contrasting cultures. American couple Richard and Susan, played by Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, find themselves trapped without help in a remote Morrocan town after Susan is accidentally shot by a local farmer (newcomer Boubker Ait El Caid, an amateur child actor who is quite brilliant), whose family becomes caught up in the subsequent police investigation. Meanwhile, the American couple's children find themselves on an unexpected trip across the US border to Mexico with their carer Amelia (Adriana Barraza) and Chieko (the fearless Rinko Kikuchi), a deaf-mute teenage girl, comes to terms with her burgeoning sexuality in hi-tech Tokyo.
Each of the stories delve into prejudices and stereotypes, whether it be boys unable to see past Chieko's communication difficulties, Westerners presuming that every Moroccan is a terrorist or American border guards assuming all Mexicans to be on the wrong side of the law. The themes are interesting but rarely explored in sufficient detail, with the film relying on archetypal characters and situations rather than doing anything particularly new or revelatory – with the exception of Chieko's story, which crafts a fascinating, multi-layered character who is very much disconnected from the surrounding world.
There's an odd structural issue with the film's multiple storylines. It gradually becomes clear that they are all linked through a rifle – with the odd exception of the Mexican setting, which inevitably feels rather tacked on and superfluous to the otherwise neat three-way narrative. Add to this an overwhelmingly earnest tone and an irritating “This Is A Serious Movie” musical score and Babel unfortunately becomes far less than the sum of its parts. Great acting, locations, cinematography and sound design are all for nothing if the material is lacking. Babel, alas, says nothing that hasn't been heard countless times before and, for all its moralising and grand ambitions, finds itself rather short of having a strong point.
There's just a single extra feature on the two-disc edition of Babel, but it's a good one. Comprising a 90-minute video diary by Iñárritu himself, it follows the international shoot as it traverses Africa, America and Japan, discovering different attitudes to filmmaking that are as intriguing as the cultures represented in the movie itself. The struggles to film exterior material in Tokyo are particularly entertaining, with Babel's crew seemingly on the run from the traffic police for most of the shoot.
It's an honest and refreshing documentary, albeit marred somewhat by the same pretensions that afflict the film itself. Opening with Iñárritu holding hands with his cast and crew in a line, red roses clasped by each person, as he talks about his hopes that the film could change the world, it's hard not to become irritated at times by the rather overwhelming sense of self-importance.
Win a copy!
It's a mixed review of a mixed film but there's still a huge amount of talent at work here, from the superb cast (right down to the minor supporting roles) to the beautiful, realist cinematography and innovative use of sound, let alone the organisational nightmare of a truly international production.
If you'd like to win a copy, all you have to do is answer the following question:
Which classic British sci-fi novel features the rather useful 'Babel' species of fish?
Email your answer to COMPETITION NOW CLOSED.
Rules and regs: It wouldn't be a proper competition without some rules! So here we go: 1. Babel deals with some Serious Stuff, so you have to be 15 or over to enter. Tell us your date of birth in your email, or else. 2. These DVDs are region 2, so make sure your DVD player can handle it. 3. Don't forget to include your home mail address, as DVDs can't be sent by email. 4. All entries must be received by 19th June 2007.