In Movies & TV Commentary

"Amores Perros" may have inspired the film "Crash."

In Movies & TV Commentary

Brittany Murphy stars in "Spun."

Metcalf's DVD Screening Room: "Amores Perros" and "Spun"

Bayside resident Mark Metcalf is an actor who has worked in movies, TV and on the stage. He is best known for his work in "Animal House," "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Seinfeld."

In addition to his work on screen, Metcalf is involved with Milwaukee Film, First Stage Children's Theater and a number of other projects, including comicwonder.com. He recently filmed an episode of the popular AMC series "Mad Men."

He also finds time to write about movies for OnMilwaukee.com. This week, Metcalf weighs in on a pair of movies, "Amores Perros" and "Spun."

AMORES PERROS (2000)

"Love's a bitch." That is the translation of the title of this film by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu.

"What's love got to do with it?" is a lyric from a Tina Turner song and an apt response to Amores Perros. Certainly not "love" as it is understood in the movie language of the romantic United States.

Amores Perros is a great film. It precedes by a few years, and I am sure inspired, the Paul Haggis film "Crash," which won a couple of Academy Awards, awards which should have gone to "Children of Men," another superior film also directed by a Mexican director.

The storytelling technique goes back to Robert Altman's "Nashville." In the Altman film, many characters approach an event, a moment in time, from different directions, with different stories, each intertwined with the other in an accidental, peripheral way, sometimes merely by geography.

I suppose that way of telling a larger story goes back to Chaucer in some way. There was a wonderful film several years ago called "Nine Lives," in which the stories of nine different women were told in nine short films. Each story was connected to the other in the briefest of ways but the whole accumulated into a strong and beautiful statement about relationships and the constant struggle to maintain them, and the impossibility of doing so unscarred.

In Altman's film, everything moves forward toward a single event in the future, so there is the tradition of linear thinking as it relates to time. With Inarritu's film the action of the entire film spirals in time and space around a single event that happens early in the film and then continues to happen again and again as we experience that event from the perspective of several different characters as they are affected by it either directly or indirectly. The effect is one of putting a puzzle together. We are carried along by the tension of not knowing what is going on or what is going to happen and we are rewarded periodically as a piece will fall into place, or as two different stories will interconnect.

The final act of what amounts to three acts concerns a street person, a man whose has left his family and his job to become a revolutionary, to change the world, one would think for the better. If you look around you'll notice that the changing the world thing hasn't worked out for any of us.

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