The Burning Plain Guillermo Arriaga

The Burning Plain Guillermo Arriaga
For the minority who thought Arriaga's previous screenwriting outings — 21 Grams, Amores Perros and Babel, to name a few — were too oblique, with their fractured narratives tied together thematically, rather than systematically, The Burning Plain should prove a welcome relief. This fancy, professionally framed awards bait is nothing if not blunt and obvious, with the titular burning plain juxtaposed against the self-destructive, promiscuous cutter, Sylvia (Charlize Theron). Perhaps the young blonde girl in the vibrant yellow past has something to do with the depressed blonde woman in the blue-grey present? Things shift back and forth between the past, where Gina (Kim Basinger) has an affair with Nick (Joachim de Almeida), and the future, where Sylvia meets a mysterious Mexican named Carlos (Jose Maria Yazpik). While the narrative attempts slowly to reveal these parallel storylines like a jigsaw puzzle, the audience will be way ahead of the game, wondering what all the hesitation is about. In this greater picture effort sense, Guillermo Arriaga's first effort behind the lens does little more than prove that a decent, if self-aggrandized, writer doesn't necessarily make a good director. He does prove, however, to be quite good with actors — in particular, with women — as both Basinger and Theron are allowed to internalize their characters, avoiding the showy surface machinations that male directors often force. Resultantly, we get an interesting look at female freedoms stifled by social expectation and gender performance. This, at least, makes the film worth checking out. Included with the DVD are a handful of supplements providing insight on the music selection and creative intent, with a "Making of" and "Music of." In addition, since this is one of those films associated with HDNet, there is a brief television special, which is essentially a marketing tool for the film that makes it look better than it is. (E1)