Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Movie Review: “Bardo: False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths” is a Expressive Tale of Fantastical Proportions

Director: Alejandro G. Iñárritu

Writer: Alejandro G. Iñárritu and Nicolás Giacobone

Stars: Daniel Giménez Cacho, Griselda Siciliani, Iker Solano

Synopsis: An acclaimed journalist-turned-documentarian goes on an oneiric introspective journey to reconcile with the past, the present and his Mexican identity.

As we become older, we begin to look into ourselves, reminiscing over the stories of our past. And although we cling to what has shaped and formed us throughout our lifetime — though we’ve lived every moment — these memories become hazy, as though we can see only a version of us through a looking glass. And before we know it, we have become an unreliable narrator — misremembering sequences of events, what things were said, and how those around us reacted. It’s a frequently used concept, and one that director Alejandro G. Iñárritu teases us with in his newest film Bardo: False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths.

 Fact, fiction, or somewhere in-between? The question lingers heavy on our mind, but before we’re able to process such an idea, Iñárritu catapults us into the world that is his main character, Silverio (Daniel Giménez Cacho). Silverio is a journalist turned documentarian, and a well-accomplished one, at that. His resumé is full of achievements, which brings us to the days leading up to a major award he’s going to receive in Los Angeles. He’s Mexican born and raised, but has decided to live the past 20 years with his family in the United States working on various projects. It isn’t hard to equate the parallels between Iñárritu’s life and that of our main character. Fill in a couple of blanks with some of Iñárritu’s own achievements — his Oscar wins, for example — and you have some considerable similarities.

 Silverio returns to Mexico after a long absence as his old friends and colleagues have a celebration in his honor — eager for a second of his time. But where there are his admirers, there are also some who believe that Silverio has become full of himself — fleeing the first chance he became famous, only to now be a microphone for the Americans, and an artist whose work drips with pretentious nonsense. His former friend, now enemy, Luis (Francisco Rubio) — a now popular Mexican talk show host — is most critical of Silverio’s work, and unforgiving for it. However, when it comes to Silverio, a man whose fantastical imagination and self-aggrandization leads to him rubbing shoulders with famous conquistadors and war heroes, Luis’ venomous words fall on Silverio’s deaf ears. Is that how it really happened? Who knows.

 Wave after wave, Silverio is haunted by various memories — many not cohesively tethered to the last. He wonders if he’s a good husband, father, son, friend, and colleague. His wife Lucia (Griselda Siciliani) dotes upon him as his children, Lorenzo (Iker Solano) and Camila (Ximena Lamadrid) are seemingly important parts of Silverio’s personality. And yet, though the characters carry on with their lives as normal, there’s an overbearing feeling of something holding each one of them back. A memory, or ongoing circumstance, that serves to not let our characters feel like they can belong in a stable point in their lives.

 My admiration and respect knows no bounds when it comes to Iñárritu’s filmmaking talents, as he’s shown us with his previous directing achievements such as Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) and The Revenant. But when it comes to Bardo, he shows us something different, more personal. At every turn, you are whisked away, enwrapped in a cacophony of music and color. Your mind is unable to fully wrap itself around the fantasy that’s unfolding. And because of that, one could easily write Bardo off as being surface level, or a film without substance. There’s a war, however, that fights in the heart of our main character. An internal struggle in a world where we cling so close to our roots of race or ethnicity, our hearts and minds become nomadic as we fall through the cracks of the places we believe we should belong.

 In technical terms, the word bardo is Buddhist, meaning the “intermediate or transitional state between death and rebirth.” It’s a heavy word, but one that Iñárritu doesn’t take lightly, which is why the film may feel a bit chaotic at times. The mysterious artistry of leaving a reader or, in this case an audience, with the feeling of “is this part autobiography,” is nothing new. We can rake the film over with a fine tooth comb trying to interpret Iñárritu’s meaning of vast symbolism with regard to his own life, but do we really need to do that? Did these events actually happen? The point is that Iñárritu creates a world, in typical Iñárritu fashion, to illuminate the constant transitional state (the in-between) in so many of our lives.

Grade: B+

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