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MOVIES: Bardo, False Chronicles of a Handful of Truths - Review

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Alejandro González Iñárritu's Bardo, Fasle Chronicle of a Handful of Truths is a lavish, often self indulgent inner portrayal of an aging artist who returns to Mexico after a lengthy career in the States - grappling with the guilt of betraying his people for adoration of the American film circuit, in which his films are beloved and he's due an award.

The film is immaculately crafted by Iñárritu and the visuals are jaw-droppingly done. BARDO is at its highest point when it's questioning docufiction vs. art - one of its main arguments, with the film arguing that documentation *can* be art - Iñárritu overshadows it with a need to make the film be a grand statement on Mexico to the point where he feels like he's holding himself up as the saviour of the country; when we know that's not the case -but the personal message that can get in the way of the film is left to the wayside in favour of dance sequences that feel and look spectacular; a well-crafted party scene shines with another A+ usage of David Bowie in a film. It's no surprise that Iñárritu's technical expertise is good to anyone who's seen any of his previous work but this feels like a radical departure and at once the natural next step, looking at the clash of cultures between Mexico and America - specifically, those raised in the United States who are Mexican - and the film deals with the cultural divide.

The film itself exists primarily as a victim of circumstance and its characters are that - exploring identity as a collection of fragemented memories pieced together in a loose order; a questionable framing device feels like the coming together of an Almodovar movie presented without any of the wit and with more of the self-indulgencies that the film could've done without. Yet the marvel of the spectacle is there; there's a lead-up to a fantasy televison sequence that feels like a spectacle tribute to showbuisness as we watch one view of art collide with another; the glitz, the glamour and the fairytale presented here as the director gets in your headspace in a trippy way making you adjust to the film's wavelength. It gives its character, Daniel Giménez Cacho's Silverio - the chance to explore his life choices when waiting upon an award - witnessing bloody battles from Mexico's past play out in a stage re-enactment, and whilst there are hints, clues for the audiences early on it'll be a while before the director reals his grand scheme; which - whether or not it lands depends on how closely the movie works for you. There's no denying that it's messy - but then, isn't life? Darius Khondji's cinematography works like a charm - it's not, although it may seem at times, a Birdman greatest hits. The scenarios are often dreamlike, the atmosphere doubly so - multiple times, we see reality twisted and bended to suit Iñárritu's own whims. The comedy is almost unique - the opening few moments have a baby decide that the world is "too fucked up" and wants to go back inside its mother; to which the doctors oblige. The gross-out comedy is something sort of a curveball for the director but here it works - not quite Cronenbergian, that's where the Annette comparisons come in - more Caraxian?. It works as a fascinating commentary on what do we do when presented with so much grief and loss - so much tragedy; how do we cope with it? Iñárritu's answer, it seems, is to laugh and have a good time.

Despite this, BARDO feels like a chore at times and the flashes of brilliance are few and far between; mostly focusing around character identity - which therein lies the problem of the film - it's a movie about identity and identity is one of its strengths - it should work - yet it almost commits too much to that idea and falls apart at the seams - a haphazard memory of dreams; half truths and falsehoods presented as reality - the past, the present and the future colliding in one - daunting in ambition as much as any other - it's one of the better personal projects of the year so far; as passionate about the craft as one can go - giving a magical realist fusion that feels like, for better or worse - Iñárritu is in complete control of his own destiny.

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