Amores perros [2000]

Amores Perros roughly translates to "Love's a bitch," and it's an apt summation of this remarkable film's exploration of passion, loss, and the fragility of our lives. In telling three stories connected by one traumatic incident, Mexican director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu uses an intricate screenplay by novelist Guillermo Arriaga to make three movies in close orbit, expressing the notion that we are defined by what we lose--from our loves to our family, our innocence, or even our lives. These interwoven tales--about a young man in love with his brother's pregnant wife, a perfume spokeswoman and her married lover, and a scruffy vagrant who sidelines as a paid killer--are united by a devastating car crash that provides the film's narrative nexus, and by the many dogs that the characters own or care for. There is graphic violence, prompting a disclaimer that controversial dog-fight scenes were harmless and carefully supervised, but what emerges from Amores Perros is a uniquely conceptual portrait of people whom we come to know through their relationship with dogs. The film is simultaneously bleak, cynical, insightful, and compassionate, with layers of meaning that are sure to reward multiple viewings. --Jeff Shannon

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