Bardo: False chronicle of a handful of truths2022.
Directed by Alejandro G. Iñárritu.
Starring Daniel Giménez Cacho, Griselda Siciliani, Ximena Lamadrid, Íker Sánchez Solano, Grantham Coleman, Andrés Almeida, Omar Leyva, Edison Ruiz, Mar Carrera, Grace Shen, Daniel Damuzi, Misha Arias De La Cantolla and Jorge Gidi.
An acclaimed journalist turned documentary filmmaker embarks on a dreamlike introspective journey to come to terms with the past, the present, and his Mexican identity.
Just like its title, Bardo: False chronicle of a handful of truths it is full of contradictions. Perhaps the most extreme of these is that while there is no denying the latest from Alejandro G. Iñárritu (co-writing this loose, introspective semi-autobiographical character study alongside Nicolás Giacobone) it is self-indulgent and full of excess (even after having approximately 20 minutes cut from its running time following divisive reactions from the Toronto International Film Festival which may or may not have influenced the decision), though not necessarily because the filmmaker creates himself a godsend for cinema.
Assuming that fictional journalist turned famous documentarian Silverio Gacho (an emotionally moving Daniel Giménez Cacho) is Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s stand-in, the management here seems audaciously bold and confident but, in reality, is racked by insecurity. There is a segment in which Silverio finally comes to verbal blows with an exhausted TV presenter, more obsessed with the audience and social networks instead of covering serious matters (like Amazon in the process of buying a Mexican piece of land), coming in sometime after a hallucinatory nightmare fantasy imagining that if he goes on air with this old acquaintance to promote his latest documentary, he will be mercilessly shot down. The driver pretends to like Silverio’s work and wants to interview him, but delivers scathing criticism behind his back.
During this conversation where both men gave free rein, revealing their true feelings, the already dreamy and absurd Bardo: False chronicle of a handful of truths begins to break the fourth wall, with Silverio more or less acknowledging the most confusing aspects of this experience thus far (especially artistic transitions like Silverio trapped inside a flooded train and inexplicably escaping by crawling home, which is sure to test the patience and the minds of anyone watching Netflix). He then confesses to having impostor syndrome as he explains that life is a series of fleeting moments that you indulge in or not.
The same wisdom applies to Bardo: False chronicle of a handful of truths like a movie There is a first line of dialogue in which Silverio attacks the artistic legitimacy of anyone who does not play with his projects. Considering that an opening scene of Bardo: False chronicle of a handful of truths involves a newborn baby who wants to come back and break away from his mother’s womb because this current world is too fucked up to live in, it’s safe to say that Alejandro G. Iñárritu is pouring his personal philosophies into this visually stunning and thoughtful reflection on the art, family, and cultural identity (accented by the poignant and appropriately ridiculous score by Bryce Dessner and Alejandro G. Iñárritu.
Without spoiling it, the above is also a metaphor. There is a beauty to Bardo: False chronicle of a handful of truths in that, as wild and bizarre as the film is, its messages and themes couldn’t be clearer. If such obviousness threatens to frustrate, it’s also fortunate that Alejandro G. Iñárritu is in command when it comes to presentation and execution; Cinematographer Darius Khondji has the seemingly impossible task (as do the actors performing) of framing scenes that flip back and forth between reality and dreamscape, often with anachronistic production design. Even during stretches where the film feels full of itself, letting scenes drag on too long, each shot exudes artistic imagination and epic scope (another mind-boggling sequence involves climbing a mountain of corpses in what feels like a purgatory through Mexico).
Despite the elaborate dance party sequences and atmospheric set design, some of the strongest moments come from simply pointing the camera at Silverio interacting with his family members; his wife Lucía (Griselda Siciliani), his Boston-based, college-age daughter Camila (lXimena Lamadrid), and their distraught teenage son Lorenzo (Íker Sánchez Solano). Speaking as a Caucasian-American observer, one can’t help but find fascination in Lorenzo pointing out that his father is quick to defend Mexico whenever the gringos have negative things to say, but is also quick to ridicule what the world has become. country (the locals don’t seem too upset that the land is being sold to Amazon, optimistically hoping it will benefit them).
It is true that, Bardo: False chronicle of a handful of truths a little creeps across the finish line. Too many options involving CGI are distracting and should have been ruled out before trying. The rest is unrestrained absurdity with varying degrees of shock that is so seductively crafted that giving in to sensory overload comes naturally.
Flashing Myth Rating – Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the reviews editor for Flickering Myth. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at [email protected]