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Sunday, 30 January 2011

Biutiful

Biutiful (2010), dir. Alejandro González
in cinemas now
Javier Bardem and Maricel Alvarez in Biutiful

Biutiful is the captivating tale of Uxbal (Javier Bardem) who is suspended in a cyclical non-life between reality and fatality. Fighting the bitter struggle to make ends meet and confronted with nightmarish challenges on a daily basis, Biutiful is not unlike The Pursuit of Happyness in subject matter. The entire film resembles a dreamlike struggle to reach an end, being held back by a never-ending and excruciating escalator. That doesn’t mean it’s not gripping viewing, however. The two and a half hours pass by like a surreal dream as the audience are engulfed in Uxbal’s Barcelona underworld, seeing the seedy affairs from the eyes of a desperate man, burdened with the need to provide for his family and erratic and dysfunctional wife.

Alejandro González, the film’s Mexican director, juxtaposes raw horror with enigmatic beauty to impressive effect. Dead bodies verge on the sublime and death is threaded through the film like subtle embroidery. It’s a film about desperation, suffering and ‘life observed from the endpoint’ (González). Bardem is entrancing as the compromised, yet intrinsically moral Uxbal, while Maricel Alvarez is truly magnificent as his wild, bipolar wife.

Certainly not for the faint-hearted, Biutiful is an extraordinary tale of love, loss, desperation and ‘getting by’. A perfectly-selected sequence of impossibly beautiful images provides a rich backdrop for the sordid goings-on under the radar in Spain’s cultural capital. This is one not to miss.