Friday, January 4, 2008


I sat through the two hours of this 2006 film on DVD knowing my life was seeping away from me never to return, but sweet merciful sleep would not come, and I didn't do the obvious thing and turn it off. So I suppose I only have myself to blame.

I'd been attracted by the trailer, like a fool, because it seemed somewhat similar in feel to Steven Soderbergh's Traffik, in having a multiple POV and being filmed asynchronously in different places.

Not a bit of it. Traffik was cohesive in narration and there was a point to showing the various POVs. This film, on the other hand, only has a single narrative strand: boys given gun to guard goats loose off a shot in the desert that actually hits someone. That random act has two consequences, one immediate and one delayed, which takes place elsewhere. But it's all very plodding and literal. And there's never at any moment the feeling that these events have a wider meaning.

And excuse me, but WTF is the significance of the Japanese segment? Aside from getting a schoolgirl out of her clothes (the actress is in her twenties, but still) what was the point?

Babel was made by Alejandro Gonzáles Iñárritu, and it's also the dullest film I've ever looked at. Though shot in Japan, Mexico, the US and Morocco, it offers not a single arresting image. The characters are cyphers, not real people. Even although it's two hours of unremitting misery (the Mexican band is cheerful enough, but you're waiting for one of them to be murdered at any moment, as I believe is current on the Mexican music scene these days) there's no reason to be particularly troubled: I hadn't been given a reason to care about any of them, though I suppose the children acted well.

Despite that, the film won a slew of Oscar nominations (it won an Oscar and a Bafta for the score), as well as a nomination for the Palme d'Or at Cannes (Ken Loach actually won, which I think is actually French law) and a director's prize for Iñárritu at the same festival. I can only imagine they thought he was being mildly anti-American in portraying the US border guards as slightly unpleasant, and nobody else that year was being more overtly anti-American. In addition, it's all done in local languages, which must have delighted the jury.

We don't give out star ratings on this site, but that's not the reason I'm not giving Babel any.


Teacake said...

I knew it! Without having seen it I suspected all along that this film sucked. All that Academy fawning almost always indicates an excruciatingly boring film with a quasi-political message that's inferred from very little direct implication from the film itself.

I appreciate your confirming that without me having to waste my time. Four stars for Grapes for enabling my laziness.

Grapes 2.0 said...

It's true what you say: when all those guys are like Wow I'm always going, waaaiiit a minute! I'm as highbrow as the next guy, but I think stories should be about something.

Actually I just checked, and the next guy is Daniel Barenboim, so maybe not.

Jefe said...

I'm fairly certain I posted a very similar review of this movie on this site some time ago, but I'm reading and posting on my phone and can't be bothered to search. Suffice it to say I thought the movie was crap. The only character I cared about was the Mexican nanny--her story was interesting to me, that's it. Didn't give a shit about anyone else. And I had the same exact reaction as you to the Japanese line. WTF? Horrible. I give it 1 black hole.