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Biutiful (Blu-ray Review)

29 May, 2011 By: Angelique Flores

Street 5/31/11
Box Office $5.1 million
$27.98 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray
Rated ‘R’ for disturbing images, language, some sexual content, nudity and drug use.
In Spanish with English subtitles.
Stars Javier Bardem, Maricel Álvarez, Eduard Fernández, Diaryatou Daff.

It’s tough to see anything beautiful in a crowded landscape of poverty, crime, exploitation, incurable and terminal illnesses, infidelity and death. But it wouldn’t be an Alejandro González Iñárritu film without an intricate examination of the harshest of human struggles and the beauty that rises above it. That’s not to say that this latest drama from the Mexican director is anything but original and gripping.

Academy Award-winning actor Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men) stars as Uxbal, a hustler in Spain who does what he can to survive and provide for his children Ana (first-time actress Hanaa Bouchaib) and Mateo (Guillermo Estrella). His older brother, Tito (Eduard Fernández), is far from the protective, loyal type, and his ex-wife (Maricel Álvarez), who grapples with bipolar disorder, hasn’t been much of a wife or mother to her family. Oh yeah, and Uxbal can communicate with the dead.

Uxbal’s world continues to crumble as he is diagnosed with cancer and feels responsible not only to make sure his children are taken care of after his death, but also to atone for the troubles his life of shady dealings have caused, if inadvertently.

It’s easy to see why the film and Bardem both earned Academy Award nominations. The film has the usual cinematic style of writer-director-producer Iñárritu, who also directed and produced Babel, 21 Grams and Amores Perros. His use of shaky handheld cameras, not to mention his use of untrained actors, give the film a convincingly authentic feel, with colors that pull off being vibrant as well as sad and dull at the same time.

Another familiar characteristic of the film is the music, which is another magnificent score from Gustavo Santaolalla.

It’s harrowing to watch the pain and intensity of what the characters endure, but it makes those sweet little moments of love and joy in their everyday lives all the more cherishable.

The bonus materials feature interviews with Bardem, Fernández and Álvarez; a montage of all the crew goofing around; and, most interesting, flip notes from Iñárritu, which are the director’s pre-production and production video recordings of the rehearsals and intimate moments on the set. The flip notes incorporate those clips along with his audio diary notes reflections.

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