Javier Bardem Is Terrific in Iñárritu's Oscar-Nominated Film
Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu (Babel, 21 Grams, Amores Perros), the Spanish-language drama Biutiful (2010) was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Film. Also, Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, The Sea Inside) received a Best Actor Oscar nomination for his performance in Biutiful.
Be warned that Biutiful is gritty, overflowing with human misery. But it's not totally downbeat: the protagonist seeks and achieves a measure of redemption. And Iñárritu, working with the striking shots of cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto and the haunting music of Gustavo Santaolalla, gives the movie a certain lyricism.
Unlike Iñárritu's previous films, Biutiful tells a single, linear story that has plenty of narrative drive. It's set in the seamy underbelly of Barcelona, where Uxbal (Bardem) is an underworld businessman who gets fake designer handbags made in a sweatshop by illegal Chinese immigrants and has them sold by street vendors who are illegal Senegalese immigrants.
Also, Uxbal's estranged wife is mentally unstable, and he must take care of their two young children. Another strand of the plot has Uxbal and his brother dealing with the disinterment of their father due to a real-estate development. But Uxbal is thrown into crisis when he is diagnosed with terminal cancer.
As Uxbal, Bardem gives a searing performance that imbues the film with soul. This is a bleak, though not despairing, exploration of the human condition, but the movie is underpinned by spirituality.
The Biutiful DVD contains a total of about 34 minutes of supplementary materials.
By far the best of the extras is the 22-minute "Behind Biutiful: Director's Flip Notes," which consists of excerpts from Iñárritu's personal video and audio diaries kept during the making of the film. Here you can see some of the work that went into a few of the scenes, including the police chasing the illegal street vendors in Barcelona's Plaça de Catalunya and the hellish bar scene that Iñárritu says he wanted to be like a trip to Dante's Inferno. In another segment, Iñárritu claims that the Chinese extras at first refused to do a death scene for fear it would bring them bad luck, but they acquiesced to doing it after he gave them coins wrapped in red paper for good luck. Iñárritu also covers the situation that arose when he was notified that a key actress was to be deported back to Senegal.
The DVD also provides separate interviews with three of the actors that run a little over eight minutes total. The interviewees are Javier Bardem (Uxbal), Eduard Fernández (Uxbal's brother) and Maricel Álvarez (Uxbal's wife). The only other extra is a four-minute montage that shows just about everybody who worked on the film, right down to the caterers, and while the montage is shown, the soundtrack plays the pleasant "Como Te Extraño Mi Amor" by Café Tacuba.
DVD Release Date: May 31, 2011
Total Runtime: 2 hours 28 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for Disturbing Images, Language, Some Sexual Content, Nudity and Drug Use