October 27, 2006

Phantom Clavicle Pains Induced By 'Babel'


Padding around and trying to get some work done this afternoon, Cinecultist noticed we were having this weird tinge in our left shoulder. It's not yoga strain and it's not the shoulder we use to carry around the handbag, so we weren't sure quite what was up. Until we had this odd thought: maybe it's phantom clavicle pain from watching Babel earlier this week.

All of the world-spanning characters in Babel undergo some pretty painful experiences, but CC found Cate Blanchett's circumstances (estranged marriage, cleanliness phobias, then being caught by a stray bullet while riding in a tour bus, and having her shoulder sewn up by a needle and thread) particularly affecting. It's not often that a movie will give you a physical reaction, and frankly we're not sure if we should be recommending it if it does. Babel is a film that kicks you in the gut. The characters are disconnected and not just for the obvious reasons of language barriers. While it could be argued that the ending is primarily hopeful, director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's path to that conclusion isn't an easy one. Like the women's melodramas of the '50s, Babel wants you to feel the characters' pain viscerally and to have a good cry on their dime.

In the bathroom line after our screening, a few girls in front of CC had some heated things to say about the movie. A flick that inspires debate always makes us happy, so if argument and weeping are moviegoing reactions you crave, then Babel could be right up your alley. Blanchett certainly gives a good performance, as does the rest of the strong cast which includes Brad Pitt, Gael Garcia Bernal and Koji Yakusho. Actually, CC wouldn't be surprised if we hear Oscar buzz for Pitt, this is one of his best roles in ages.

If you're curious for a differing opinion, our friend The Reeler wasn't as impressed with Inarritu's attempts to emotionally affect/manipulate his audience and really ripped Babel a new one. Stu writes, "...The stultifying Babel is where cosmopolitan auteurs go to die." Ye-ouch. A harsh, but as always, a well-argued rebuttal from The Reeler.

Posted by karen at October 27, 2006 6:39 PM