Dir: Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu. Mexico. 2000. 151 mins.
Prod co: Altavista Films. Co-prod: Zeta Films. Int'l sales: Lions Gate Films (+1 323 692 7300). Prods: Martina Sosa, Francisco Gonzalez Complean. Scr: Guillermo Arriaga. DoP: Rodrigo Prieto. Eds: Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu, Luis Carballar, Fernando Perez Unda. Music: Gustavo Santaolella. Main cast: Emilio Echevarria (El Chivo), Gael Garcia Bernal (Octavio), Goya Toledo (Valeria), Alvaro Guerrero (Daniel), Vanessa Bauche (Susana), Jorge Salinas (Luis), Marco Perez (Ramiro), Gerardo Campbell (Mauricio).
Bam, we're right into the high-speed car chase, with jump cuts, in-yer face camera angles and lots of Tarantino tomato sauce. For the first forty minutes or so of this remarkable first feature by former DJ Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu, the pace hardly lets up, and neither does the packageable Mex-Rap soundtrack. Then we realise - with a sinking feeling - that the powerful story of teenage passion and malaise occupying centre stage is only one of three plots which overlap, like a Venn diagram, around the shared experience of a car crash. As often happens in such Magnolia-style symphonic works, some of the stories just ain't as interesting as others. But it's a very nice try, fully deserving its Cannes Critics Week prize, and showing that there is life in Mexican cinema beyond Arturo Ripstein.
Dogs are a running symbol and binding force, followed closely by blood (often blood on dogs), holes (often holes in dogs or dogs in holes, with optional blood) and the colour turquoise. An idealistic young buck, Octavio (Gael Garcia Bernal, a young actor of some talent) is tormented by passion for his brother's girlfriend, and hopes to win her over with the help of the money he earns from illegal dogfights; Valeria, a famous model, confined to a wheelchair after that car crash, is tormented by the loss of her raison d'etre, not to mention the disappearance of her pooch beneath a hole in the floorboards; El Chivo, a former terrorist turned tramp and contract killer, is tormented by his need to see the daughter he abandoned to fight capitalism.
Love's A Bitch will do well in the increasingly vibrant home market, and could even cross the Rio Grande if energetically packaged. Lions Gate obviously hopes so, and one would expect to see this film opening on the European arthouse circuit later this year. Shame about the length, though: in this case, two and a half hours feels self-indulgent rather than epic.