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Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths

Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths | Film Review | By Patrick Caroll


BFI London Film Festival 2022: Alejandro González Iñárritu's return to Mexico is an extravaganza worthy of the big screen.  

Mexican filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu known for oscar-winning movies including Amores Perros, Birdman and The Revenant, has paid homage to his country of birth with an epic, cinematic and profoundly intimate story which intertwines reality and fantasy lavishly. 

It isn't hard to notice the film's relation to Iñárritu's life which he briefly touched on during his address to the audience. Silverio Gacho (Daniel Giménez Cacho) is a Mexican documentary maker and journalist who is our protagonist. The beginning sees him rewarded with an award, an exception, as this is usually; reserved for Americans. At this momentous stage of his life, the real story begins as he journeys through a midlife crisis, and the following is everything from life, death, his career and, of course, Mexico. Cacho, much like Iñárritu, has achieved triumphant success abroad and therefore has an uncertain relationship with Mexico. 

Throughout the film, we witness some fantastically crafted spectacles that are shot exquisitely by the Iranian-French cinematographer Darius Khondji, who poignantly captures personal moments. For example, one of the most striking and memorable scenes sees the "missing" people of Mexico drop dead like debris after an earthquake, symbolising the vanished people affected by deprivation, corruption and crime. Another is when Silverio meets his father in a bathroom, which we soon realise is a ghost, and he regrettably tells him everything he wishes he had said before his dad passed away. In an incredibly tragic scene, Iñárritu and co-writer Nicolás Giacobone add comedy to it by giving Silverio a childlike stature whilst his face remains middle-aged. 

Other dreamlike splendours the film offers include a talk show appearance by Silverio, which turns out to be fictitious, Mexican history recreated in front of our eyes, and a deal to sell Baja California to Amazon presents a satirical subplot which doesn't fail to amuse, especially given that this is a Netflix film. At an outlandish party sequence, we also see our hero dance to David Bowie's 'Let's Dance' in isolation as a live band performs for the rest of the audience. Here, we can see he's dancing to a theme in his own head. On top of all of this, the film has a whiff of Federico Fellini's 8½ about it, and other inspirations taken include Stardust Memories (1980), La Grande Bellezza (2013) and numerous other films about fantastical creative mid-life troubles, a narrative popular in filmmaking since films have made.  

A master of cinema, domestically in Mexico and internationally, Alejandro González Iñárritu has clear intentions. He knows what he's doing and precisely plants the seeds for communication with his audience. It is what it seems from its title, a film that plays around with the truth and asks anyone watching; what we know about our lives, Mexico and most importantly, the political and social crises around the world and in front of our very own eyes. Any doubt about narcissism from the audience's perspective vanishes as jokes are made at the expense of Silverio Gacho. Although this film is quasi-biographical, Iñárritu is possibly asking himself questions about his career and life; whilst also asking deep-rooted questions as old as time. 

Ultimately, the film is a sensational venture into the unknown. Whilst at first viewing, it can seem like a film that is purely one large vision and has nothing particular to say, it is, at its heart, a filmmaker's magnum opus. It is like analysing a filmmaker's brain from life to death, and whilst being one big daydream, it asks the most crucial questions of our lives and perhaps is too intelligent. Stylish, mesmerising and genius - this is cinema at its best and is worthy of the most sizable screen available.

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