The title of Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s 2000 Mexican neorealist film Amores perros was translated into Love’s a Bitch (it’s a pun) during the North American marketing campaign, although the direct translation is somewhat different.
Amores perros entwines three storylines in the streets and slums of Mexico City. The story of Octavio and Susana features a brother’s infatutation with his sister-in-law, who is constantly abused by her amoral husband. Octavio wants to run away with her and protect her from his brother, resorting to desperate measures to save her from her fate, which include entering the dangerous world of dog fighting and hiring a band of thugs to take care of his brother. Without spoiling too much, let’s just say that it’s a turbulent yet fascinating journey through the undercurrents of Mexico City. Inarritu juxtaposes this story with the seemingly random story of Daniel and Valeria. Valeria is a famous supermodel who is crippled after a horrific car accident, and Daniel is her publisher boyfriend. The final story (“El Chivo y Maru”) concerns a mysterious hit man (my brother affectionately referred to him as a “hobo with a revolver”) and his search for redemption and reconciliation.
To elaborate on the depth and intricacies of the well-developed storylines and how they correlate to one another would give far too much away, but it’s more complete and interesting in its execution than Pulp Fiction, which it may or may not be trying to embody with its overcrossings. From what I can gather, Amores perros is the first film in Inarritu’s reputed “trilogy,” which also includes the mediocre Babel and 21 Grams, the latter of which I haven’t seen yet.
The acting in Amores perros is superb. Gael Garcia Bernal is the only actor I recognize from other films, but the other actors do a fine job of bringing life and death to the world around them.
Amores perros is both intriguing and terrifying as we immerse ourselves further and further into Inarritu’s portrait of pre-9/11 Mexican working-class life. The depraved lives of the individuals in the film makes us question our own love lives and sense of humanity and dignity. Their loveless and rejected desires and attitudes hold dark forebodings for their own futures and for the futures of the people around them. The dogs serve as recurring motifs in the story, symbolizing loyalty and faith, and connect the seemingly arbitrary vignettes together. On a side note, if you’re a dog person, I would make sure you have a strong stomach before watching this film. It’s certainly not for the squeamish. Amores perros justifies the critical acclaim it has received and should continue to be regarded as one of the finest films of the early twenty-first century.