October 26, 2006

Interview. Guillermo Arriaga.

Babel With Babel seeing a limited release this weekend, we're running a slightly altered version of Michael Guillén's summertime conversation with screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga about this final installment of the trilogy (also his final work with director Alejandro González Iñárritu), about The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada and about adapting his own novels. Look for a second part when Babel opens wide in two weeks.

Related: "Babel has an undeniable power, even (or perhaps especially) when it's at its most contrived and implausible," writes Scott Foundas in the LA Weekly. "[T]he most provocative thing about Babel isn't its cacophony of foreign tongues or those funny little words on the bottom of the screen, but rather Iñárritu and Arriaga's aggressive suggestion that we Americans and white Europeans are something less than exemplary citizens of the world, particularly in times of crisis."

Updated through 10/29.

Earlier: Jim Ridley in the Voice, Ed Gonzalez in Slant and the first round of reviews when Babel screened at Cannes.

Updates, 10/27: AO Scott in the New York Times: "Babel is certainly an experience. But is it a meaningful experience? That the film possesses unusual aesthetic force strikes me as undeniable, but its power does not seem to be tethered to any coherent idea or narrative logic. You can feel it without ever quite believing it."

"All those who were smart enough to avoid Syriana and The Constant Gardener should brace themselves for another wave of nauseating political arrogance in Babel," growls Armond White, and he's off again in the New York Press.

In the LA CityBeat, Andy Klein offers a "Make Your Own Alejandro González Iñárritu Movie kit!"

Andrew O'Hehir in Salon: "Our actions may have consequences we can't imagine, halfway around the world; when a butterfly bats its wings a baby is born, and all that. OK, but in the case of Babel what that produces is two powerful and intriguing mini-films whose only connection to each other is a third one that's barely half as good."

"The beauty of this film is in its lapidary details, which sparkle with feeling and surprise," writes Carina Chocano in the Los Angeles Times. "González Iñárritu and Arriaga... are particularly attuned to the vulnerability of the foreigner abroad - whether that vulnerability is real or imagined.... Clearly, González Iñárritu knows his Weltschmerz, and he burrows deep into the existential loneliness of each character to create a kaleidoscope of cumulative human sadness and grief over the state of the world."

Dana Stevens in Slate: "Things in this movie's world happen because of physics, economics, and individual bad decisions, not because of fate. And unlike many movies with multiple-thread plotlines, Babel handles all of its storylines equally well."

Nick Schager: "[T]here isn't a second when Iñárritu's film feels as if it's replicating life's coincidental nature; rather, it just comes off as another of his beautifully shot, evocatively scored multi-character ventures in which his sincere interest in probing grief and tragedy... takes a back seat to his pseudo-profound, oh-so-convenient plot manipulations."

Marcy Dermanski: "Unrelentingly, unremittingly sad, excruciatingly painful, all for no valid reason, Alejandro González Iñárritu's Babel is a movie to avoid at all costs."

A Cinematical collection of reviews.

Alison Willmore at the IFC Blog: "You can't fault Babel for its ambition - the far-reaching film ties together storylines in Morocco, Mexico and Japan to reassure us that we are all united in our human misery. Here's what you can fault it for: grievous self-seriousness and self-importance, and the squandering of some of the year's finer performances."

Michael Guillén reports on a Q&A at the Mill Valley Film Festival. His question, naturally, concerned Arriaga:

Iñárritu looked me straight in the eye and graciously responded that their's has been a very beautiful and provocative nine-year relation, a strong and intense collaboration, that began with Amores Perros. Every film, he conjectured, is made in different stages and the first stage—which is so great—is when you dream and theorize about what film you can make. At that stage, Iñárritu offered, Guillermo has been an extremely amazing collaborator because of their shared vision. Even when they obviously saw things differently, when they argued about things, about what was good or what was wrong for one character or one story, that intensity ultimately was of benefit to the story itself. It's an intense interminable exchange of ideas and processes that has been good. Iñárritu added that Arriaga is now interested in producing a film, and wants to direct, so from now on he will explore that while Iñárritu explores stories he has been working on independently for some time and which now he can pursue more thoroughly. "But we are very proud, both of us, of what we have accomplished in this relation."

At Slate, Doree Shafrir sketches out a bit of historical background, re: Terrence Rafferty's NYT piece on the tiff between the writer and the director.

Update, 10/28: Sorina Diaconescu profiles Rinko Kikuchi for the LAT.

Update, 10/29: Peter Sobczynski talks with Alejandro González Iñárritu for Hollywood Bitchslap.

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Posted by dwhudson at October 26, 2006 1:36 PM