San Sebastian Film Festival 2022 | ‘Bardo, false chronicle of a few truths’ is the oneiric masturbation of an unleashed Iñárritu, for better and for worse

The self-awareness of your mistakes does not make them minor. Alejandro González Iñárritu is aware that in ‘Bardo’, the film that has been followed by an endless almost inadvertently parodic subtitle, he has forced his own machinery, and even parodies it in the film itself, with very little success. In search of the perfect movie, andhe director has made the mistake of loving himself too much and trusting that all the rest of us were going to follow him on this ego trip outrageous that succeeds technically but fails in any attempt to leave a mark on the viewer.

The emperor goes naked

Who had the self-esteem of Iñárritu, who has dedicated two and a half hours (after cutting twenty minutes after his polarizing visit to Venice) to explain to us that he is a great director and trying to take over all the Twitter accounts of “One Perfect Shot”. And yes, separately, ‘Bardo’ is full of perfect, symmetrical, spectacular shots that will delight those who enjoy a good composition. Now, in the context of the film, these shots have no reason to be, and are only part of the self-indulgent search of a director more concerned about the legacy he is going to leave than putting together a speech. The Mexican puts history at the service of technique with a single objective: that we see the things he knows how to do.

Iñárritu wants to create a visual poem, but it is not Luis Buñuel. As prodigious as ‘Bardo’ is in the technical section, all good visual poets tell something in their shots beyond letting themselves be carried away by beauty and spectacularity: the director presents us a high-handed film lacks a strong enough framework to justify such haughtiness. And it is that the Netflix tape is torn between being a comedy, a drama or a bad example of social cinema (with script pieces as unsubtle as “Amazon has bought a state in the United States”), without realizing that this false search for meaning it masks the one thing it really wants to be without achieving it: a sensational movie.

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‘Bardo’ lives for and to be a life-changing experienceand to do so he uses all possible engineering, from grandiose phrases that say nothing (that embarrassing scene in the bathroom) to spatio-temporal confusions, impossible sequence shots and meta-cinema, without disdaining a misleading final twist that seems more like the conclusion of a university short film than of a work as allegedly magnificent as this one. Iñárritu is not afraid of falling into the ridicule of absurd bombast and throughout the footage he makes his protagonist (who is, without much masking, himself) converse with Hernán Cortés on a tower of bodies, swim from a bus to his own house and fly over a desert in a subjective plane. But unfortunately for his intentions, the viewers are not dazzled by his cinematographic abilities and we can see that the emperor is not wearing a new suit: he is completely naked.

Between the One Perfect Shot and the WhatsApp video

Contrary to what one might think, ‘Bardo’ is not the name that Iñárritu gives himself in a pseudo-autobiographical film, but the space between death and rebirth in Buddhism. This film, which tries to be larger than life itself and exceed the limits of the cinematographic, supposes the death of the director as storyteller and his rebirth as a magician who is capable of translating dreams into images. Or that’s what he thinks, at least.

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It is not the only film this year that completely rejects a conventional narrative to tell small pieces totally differentiated in tone and intentions. ‘Bardo’ begins with a sketch that your aunt could send you on WhatsApp with the text “Look at this! Hahahaha” and ends with an attempt to reflect on life that comes too late, when the film has been taking us out little by little and pushing.

I’m not going to deny the obvious: its viewing is, if you can put aside the director’s self-ego and the continuing impression that this is just a self-indulgent movie, nice. Yes, really: visually it’s spectacular (pay close attention to that fabulous scene with ‘Let’s dance’ in the background) but any attempt to break that bubble of preciousness and focus on feelings goes very wrong. Because in ‘Bardo’ everything is so artificial that even feelings are imposed.

A forgettable epic

Argumentally, the most interesting of ‘Bardo’ lies in the hypocrisy of Silverio, its protagonist, who after a life making a name for himself in the United States decides to return to Mexico for a few days and behave as if he were a patriot… Only to get angry later if someone does not consider the United States as his home. It is to this duality that Iñárritu, probably seeing himself reflected, he spends more time, irony and bitterness, and his reflections, although they do not always hit the nail on the head, have value. Silverio, the liberator of the poor who accepts a prize from the capitalists. The one who believes in Mexico but sends his children to live abroad. The Mexican Yankee.

Sadly, they are small moments wrapped in tedium due to forgettable conversations between characters that come and go, that don’t even matter in the movie. They are the excuse for the director to do his magic tricks and play with the medium: he leaves a friend of Silverio’s without a voice, he changes his size when talking to his father (an effect that, by the way, doesn’t work well at all), he introduces himself as a character in his own documentary… It sounds great on paper, but when it comes down to it, ‘Bardo’ is loved too much to take advantage of all its possibilities.

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‘Bardo’ wants to be so groundbreaking, innovative, different and surprising that He doesn’t realize that we’ve seen his story a thousand times, his final twist is simpleton and the secondary ones are simple extras of an unpleasant protagonist. Visually impressive, yes, but after half an hour one begins to look at the clock, only to find, with some distaste, that there are still two hours to go. The BBC titled its review “a three-hour movie that feels like it’s 17”And I couldn’t express it better. The most beautiful boredom I have ever seen.

San Sebastian Film Festival 2022 | ‘Bardo, false chronicle of a few truths’ is the oneiric masturbation of an unleashed Iñárritu, for better and for worse