Thursday, 3 February 2011

Biutiful - Cineworld, Edinburgh - 29/1/11

In "Biutiful" Bardem plays Uxbal a man who has the ability to aid the dead on their passage from this life to the next.  He is also a gangster; running a group of illegal African immigrants who sell their wares on the streets of Barcelona, providing illegal Chinese immigrants to the building trade and helping out the man who runs a warehouse which produces fake goods made by an army of Chinese workers who are kept locked in the basement of the warehouse to stop them from escaping.

At the same time Uxbal is also raising his two children alone.  His bipolar wife is an upsetting presence and she is also sleeping with Uxbals brother.  When he does eventually allow her back into his life and the life of the children it ends badly for everyone.

This is a film that ponders on the things that make this life worth living; family, love, relationships as well as the things that make it so difficult; death, pain, suffering, heartache and loss.  It is, often, a bleak and difficult film to watch but thanks to the enormous presence of Bardem it is never anything other than compelling.  He is a mass of contradictions; spiritual yet obsessed with the pursuit of money, kind and loving but willing to buy and sell people at the drop of a hat, blessed with a gift that should bring comfort to people in need which he uses to raise a few extra euros.

This is director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritus first Spanish language film since "Amores Perros" in 2000. In between time he has brought us "21 Grams", "Babel" as English language pieces and while both are wonderful films it is obvious that working in his "native" language as both writer and director has allowed him to create something truly wonderful.

Inarritu and Bardem are two towering names in Spanish language film and here, together, they combine to leave the audience reflecting on their own lives and the things that matter most to them.  No easy, trite or glib solutions to the conflicts we all face in life but instead a look deep inside the soul of a man.

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