Friday, December 23, 2022

Bardo: False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths

Movie Name: 
Bardo: False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths
Year of Release: 2022
Director: Alejandro G. Iñarritu
Starring: Daniel Giménez Cacho, Griselda Siciliani, Ximena Lamadrid, Iker Sánchez Solano, Luis Couturier, Luz Jiménez, Andrés Almeida, Clementina Guadarrama, Jay O. Sanders
Genre: Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 4
Watch it on Netflix

Synopsis and Review
Following the immensely successful back to back experiences of releasing "Birdman" and "The Revenant", director Alejandro G. Iñarritu took some time before releasing "Bardo: False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths", or his version of something similar or inspired by Federico Fellini's "8 1/2". "Bardo" follows the narrative of Silverio Gama, a Mexican journalist who has become a celebrated documentary filmmaker who lives in Los Angeles, California. He is going back to Mexico to receive a prestigious award for journalism, but while he does so, he also struggles with feelings of loss he has experienced in his life, namely his first child who died shortly after being born. While in Mexico he also deals with some of the aftermath of the relationships he left behind, which includes those who celebrate him and those who resent his success. He also deals with the cultural heritage he is building with his children, the adult Camila and the teenage Lorenzo, who are somewhat torn between the culture they've grown up with (American) and the one their parents were born into and always described somewhat idyllically (Mexican). While celebrating his accomplishment and award, Silverio reminisces and reconciles with his late father, before also coming to terms with some of the historic atrocities which have happened in Mexico. As Silverio moves on and comes back to the US, his sense of belonging and guilt continues to haunt him. 
Not to wax poetic about the point of storytelling, but one of the most important aspects of that experience starts with the author, who clearly always has an intention of what he/she wants to communicate, and the receiver, the consumer of that message, who at times obviously understands the intention of the author, though he/she may interpret that narrative as something closer to their own perspective and experiences. All this to say, that while director Alejandro G. Iñarritu clearly has some lofty ambitions on what he wants to say with this film, and the journey his alter ego Silverio is going on, for the most part the film feels both self indulgent, and oddly under-cooked. As if the narrative itself was edified after the shooting had been done, and the tone and content of the film was figured out in the editing room. There are some great questions and ponderous themes in motion in this film, namely cultural heritage aspects, historical atrocities, how guilt shapes decisions, self-awareness issues, the weight of mortality, all topics that make for a heartfelt filmic experience, all of which are strangely absent or feel faintly observed. It's an unusually shallow film from a director who has always aimed at probing the pained humanity that lies in his characters. For all the flaws, guilt and happiness that are showcased to illustrate who Silverio is, nothing much ever comes across about what his ambitions were, what drives his choices, or even his interactions with everyone in his life. While the point of the journey we're taken on is uncovered towards the end of the film, it still doesn't add more meaning or for that matter, pertinence for what we're supposed to empathize about. It's a visually stunning film featuring the great cinematography from Darius Khondji, and the music from Bryce Dessner which is equally fantastic. The performances are equally solid, particularly the always stupendous Daniel Giménez Cacho (who was equally great in Pedro Almodovar's "La Mala Educacion"), but in the end this portrait of a torn artist, simply isn't as compelling and riveting as it should be. It's a miss in the career of a very talented film maker.