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Quick Review: Bardo, False Chronicle Of A Handful Of Truths
Experience A State Of Mind
The following is my review for the film Bardo, False Chronical Of A Handful Of Truths. A reminder, you can click this link to see how I score films when I review them.
Silverio, a renowned Mexican journalist and documentary filmmaker living in Los Angeles, who, after being named the recipient of a prestigious international award, is compelled to return to his native country, unaware that this simple trip will push him to an existential limit.
If there’s one man who has no calms about doing long takes, slow pacing, exploring the human psyche, and yet has seen some mainstream success, its Alejandro Iñárritu. The man directed a Best Picture winning movie, came close to directing another, and is in the small list of directors who won the Oscar for direction in back-to-back years. Somehow he has found accessible audiences for movies that on paper some would throw away as boring and pretentious.
I can’t claim to be a “stan” of Iñárritu. My record with slow and methodical movies like the ones he makes tend to be hit-or-miss. I’m not quite with him on his philosophy of cinema in which he has compared superhero films to cultural geocide. I also can’t say I approve of some of his filmmaking practices that have come under scrutiny, including accusations that he put extras in harm’s way during the pandemic.
But I gotta’ admit, the man can put together a damn good movie. Both Birdman and The Revenant are easily some of my personal favorite films from their perspective years, and I would be lying if I wasn’t intrigued when I learned he was making his own Fellini-like introspective movie in Bardo, False Chronicle Of A Handful Of Truths.
But in a big twist, the typically awards-contending director’s new movie has received a very divisive reaction. Notably I’ve noticed a trend that most (not all) of the film’s biggest fans tend to be those in the Hispanic community, particularly Mexican-American critics I read and follow. But as those of you who have read this newsletter know, I’m open to giving the badly received and divisive movies a shot, and there was no way I wasn’t going to be beyond curious to check out a new Iñárritu film.
I have to say I did not watch the three hour cut that was screened at festivals. I watched the two hour and thirty-nine minute theatrical cut that will be streaming on Netflix come next month. I can’t speak for that original cut, so I can’t compare and contrast my thoughts with the version that got such a divisive reaction at the fall festivals.
But getting straight to the point, I have to say wow is this a beautifully crafted film. The direction is unsurprisingly incredible, the cinematography might be in my top five of the year, the sound design is insanely good in a way that made my screening experience all the better for it, and the performances are top-notch especially from Daniel Giménez Cacho as our protagonist Silverio.
There are some amazing scenes in this from a conversation between Silverio and Cortez about colonialism to an amazing dance scene that made me feel like I was at one of my parents’ parties and Spanish music was blaring. Its a movie that tackles self-identity, imposter syndrome, culture clashes, generational differences, familial relationships, grief and acceptance, and so much more. And it does all this with some really funny moments of levity that had me smiling or laughing.
But I will warn you this movie does have some accessibility issues. It takes its time to tell its story, and even with this new cut I thought some fat could have been trimmed off. Its also got some scenes that include among things a CGI infant demanding to be put back into his mom’s womb that will either play out as funny to you or just make you cringe. If this movie loses you in one scene, there’s a chance it’ll lose you for good. Which is why I found myself watching this and thinking “Wow, this is great stuff.” followed by “But I know a couple people who would give up on this movie right here.”
I’ve sat on writing this review for days since I saw the movie (on election day of all days), because I get the feeling I really do need to see this movie again to see where it places for the year for me. And if anything, the movie is growing with me as the days have gone on. Particularly if you’re an immigrant or someone who struggles with impostor syndrome, this is a movie worth checking out if you can bare the long runtime and some of the more trippy scenes
Perhaps the movie connected with me in the way it explores certain themes, but I have to say I came away on the positive end of this one even while I can see why it might not be so accessible to the regular movie go-er in the way some of Iñárritu’s past films have been. This won’t be in my personal top ten of the year, but this is easily going to be in my top twenty-five, if not top fifteen of the year. Consider me Team Bardo.