(Photo and poster: Paramount Vantage)
By Omar P.L. Moore/The Popcorn Reel
Thanks largely to the magnificent writing of Guillermo Arriaga, Alejandro
Gonzalez Inarritu has superbly crafted "Babel", the best motion picture released
in 2006. The film weaves three stories with a common thread and while the
device is not a new venture for the director, it is less claustrophobic than his
previous efforts ("Amores Perros" and "21 Grams".) Each story focuses on
language and the aspects of differing languages that cause people to
misunderstand (Gael Garcia Bernal and Adriana Barazza), to be impatient and
abandoning (Brad Pitt), to tune out and ignore (Koji Yakusho and Rinko Kikuchi).
The stories are mini-movies in and of themselves, but the key is that these
films exist together as one, exemplifying the complexities of the universal
human experience on a daily, global basis. Mr. Inarritu's film reflects a
cosmopoltian world view, combining the maladies that lie within the human soul
with events ripped from today's headlines.
Adriana Barazza plays a Mexican babysitter who for several years has cared for
two white American kids; Gael Garcia Bernal is the fun-loving frolicker with
more than a demon life; Kikuchi plays a deaf mute woman struggling for attention
-- any kind will do. Two Moroccan boys go off on a frolic and
detour, essentially playing a long-distance game of "Russian Roulette" in the
foothills and mountains of the North African nation, even though they have been
warned by their father not to; while Richard and Susan (Brad Pitt and Cate
Blanchett) are -- to themselves at least -- vacationing strangers in a strange
land with even stranger complexities between them as estranged American spouses
who have little in common any more in their marriage.
All of these situations are controversial in some way.
The parents of the individuals at the heart of these situations or the parents
who are the situation -- in some cases -- take little or no
responsibility for the actions that occur, signing off on situations either
willfully or passively assenting to them with a blindness that is searing, with
a mental tone-deafness that is astonishing. Sometimes the actions of a son
will depend on the courage of a father; the actions of a father will affect or
change the potential actions of a daughter; the actions of a parent will alter
the course of a relationship. "Babel"'s intricate threads are tightened by
Arriaga's superbly-crafted screenplay. In a world where listening
carefully to each other is way past a stage called "paramount", this film offers
ways that understanding and the gulf between individuals can be bridged.
Certainly the way to that path bridge are not easy. There are moments in
"Babel" that are despairing, agonizing and heartbreaking and there are moments
of joy, reprieve and hope. Gustavo Santaolalla's music is a great
signature of emotion and the final piece of sound from the Kronos Quartet
punctuates the film's two and a half hour journey, which is one well worth
The PopcornReel.com "Babel" film
first appeared on November 3, 2006.