BARDO: FALSE CHRONICLE OF A HANDFUL OF TRUTHS
Starring: Daniel Giménez Cacho and Griselda Siciliani
Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu
Despite some occasionally breathtaking photography and one or two genuinely stunning set-pieces from a pure difficulty perspective, Bardo seems to take every trick in director Alejandro González Iñárritu’s playbook and amplify them to their worst outcomes. It’s not that this surrealist examination of Iñárritu’s obsessions is a complete disaster, but nearly everything that has worked for him before doesn’t work here. The ultra-wide lensing is more distracting than immersive, the surrealism itself feels forced rather than intriguing, and at the end of the day, it feels as though the whole exercise is a pretentious way of saying “critics just don’t understand my art.”
Bardo opens with some promise. I didn’t know what was happening, yet I still loved it. However, as the film continues, it starts to make less and less sense. Co-writer/director Alejandro G. Iñárritu fills the film with jaw-dropping cinematography and themes of identity and multiculturalism, but those highlights are muddled in a plot that borders on self-indulgence and meta pretentiousness that adds nothing substantive. I never felt attached to the lead, and there is so much weirdness that I couldn’t make out the meaning. Bardo is not the best effort from a director whose work I generally love.
There are some beautiful shots to be found, but Bardo mostly feels like an attempt to make us all feel stupid. It wants to say so much, but it also is determined to make sure to state that it’s smarter than you, even going so far as to criticize itself around the halfway point. It’s a nonsensical odyssey attempting to be surrealistic cinema, and it has cemented the idea that I may just not be a fan of Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s films. It’s the definition of pretentious.
Upon finishing the film, I finally understood what director Alejandro G. Iñárritu was doing. However, it’s a long and weird 159-minute journey to get there (a journey made to feel longer because of all the subtitles). So, by the time I “got it,” I didn’t care much anymore. Often though, a scene was so beautifully shot or a sequence so excellently captured that you remember why Iñárritu is so revered as a director. He just misses the mark here, leaning a tad too far into self-indulgence as he addresses (presumably) his personal conflict with multiculturalism. As a white dude, it was hard for me to relate.