Biutiful [Blu-Ray] Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu

Biutiful [Blu-Ray] Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu
Abandoning the fractured timelines and narrative irregularities of his previous two films (21 Grams and Babel), Alejandro González Iñárritu has wisely eliminated the more superficial elements of his sophisticated style, allowing Biutiful to focus on its characters and their story. The result is an absorbing film, in equal parts lyrical and gritty. Javier Bardem is perfectly cast as Uxbal, a father of two small children and a bit player in an illegal labour operation in Barcelona. When Uxbal is informed he has terminal cancer, denial and fear are quickly eradicated by his concern for his children and their ability to be looked after by their mentally unstable, alcoholic mother. Interestingly, Uxbal has the ability to commune with the dead, an element of the story that never really functions as a plot device, only as a facet of the character as a whole. One of the highlights of the film is the cinematography, which captures the grimness of lower-class urban life, but occasionally allows striking images of shape and colour to pop through the murkiness of city living. There are true moments of artfulness and beauty, though they are captured in a completely naturalistic way without deviating from the world of the film. Iñárritu does, to a certain extent, play with cinematic conventions: music is used only a few times throughout the two-and-a-half-hour film, lending certain moments more weight, and the space of the movie is manipulated as well, with the aspect ratio of the frame oscillating between two different widescreen formats in response to the mindset of the character. Biutiful is unrelentingly tragic, but also moving and visually rich; it deserves to be seen for Bardem's wonderful performance, as well as the emotionally mature storytelling. The high-definition Blu-Ray transfer is the best way to experience this excellent cinematography at home. Special features include cast interviews, as well as an unconventional making-of featurette comprised of on-set footage with a voiceover by Iñárritu reading from his journal. It's not only informative, but artful and moving in its own right. (Maple)