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With The Ferocity Of Dogs

When you walk out of the ferocious "Amores Perros," you feel as if you've had the wind knocked out of you. It's easy enough to pummel an audience with violence and shock effects, and this powerful Mexican movie is not without its sensational aspects. Most notoriously, there are the bloody (simulated) dogfights that send some animal lovers fleeing up the aisles. But Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's astonishingly assured first feature--an Oscar nominee for best foreign film--burrows deeper than that. He's conjured up a dark, brutal vision of urban life that sticks to your skin like soot.

A triptych of life in Mexico City, "Amores Perros" (loosely translated as "Love's a Bitch") interweaves three stories that literally collide in a thundering car crash. In the first, and strongest, a teenager obsessed with his brother's wife enters his dog in underground dogfights to win money so he can run away with her. In the second, and weakest, a man leaves his wife for a supermodel, who is then disfigured in the car crash. As their affair dissolves, their pet dog becomes trapped under the floorboards of their apartment. In the last, a former radical turned hit man rescues the teenager's dog from the crash, bestowing all his misdirected ardor upon the animal as he embarks on a job to kill a businessman's brother-in-law for him.

These stories differ in tone and style, just as the characters range from street punks to media stars to assassins. What links them all is a bitter vision of love--treacherous, ephemeral and ultimately redemptive. Gonzalez Inarritu, 38, and writer Guillermo Arriaga use dogs and their relationships to their owners as a way of gauging our degraded humanity. It's this vision, more than the spilled blood, that makes us shudder.

The director and his writer spent three years on the film, taking 36 drafts to get it right. Gonzalez Inarritu spends most of his time now assuring people that no dogs were actually hurt. "There is only 17 seconds in all the movie that is dogfights," the former radio DJ says in his customized English. "I treat worse the actors than the animals. I can assure you that."

On one hand, Gonzalez Inarritu is complimented that people believe his simulated fights are real. "But at the same time, it worry me. Because no one asked me if I killed anyone in the car crash! The movie is about that: this loss of humanity. People see 'Gladiator'--blood everywhere, we can kill everybody. But if you see a pet with a little drop of blood, everybody is offended. It is very scary to me." On screen, Gonzalez Inarritu's alarm registers loud and clear.

Amores Perros
Lions Gate Films
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