WEEKEND CLASSICS: BABEL (Alejandro González Iñárritu, 2006)
323 Sixth Ave. at West Third St.
Nay 19-21, 11:00 am
Fearing that the people of the world, who all spoke the same language, were capable of anything after building a tower that reached to the heavens, the Old Testament God confused their languages and scattered them all over the earth. The inability of people to communicate with one another is at the center of Alejandro González Iñárritu’s fascinating, compelling Babel. The plot follows three stories that slowly intertwine. On vacation in Morocco, Susan (Cate Blanchett) is the victim of a random gunshot fired by a small boy (Boubker Ait El Caid), sending her husband, Richard (Brad Pitt), into a frenzy to try to save her life. Meanwhile, their housekeeper, Amelia (Adriana Barraza), who is looking after their children, has to decide what to do with them on the day of her son’s wedding in Mexico, turning to her crazy nephew Santiago (Gael García Bernal) for help. And in Tokyo, Chieko (Rinko Kikuchi) is a deaf-mute teenager who desperately wants to fall in love, but all the boys she meets — and her father (the great Kôji Yakusho, from The Eel, Cure, and Shall We Dance?) — don’t take the time to listen to and understand her. Despite a couple of minor wrong turns, Iñárritu recovers to make Babel a whirlwind of a movie, laying bear the tragic consequences that can occur when people refuse to simply communicate, even in the most basic of ways.
The film, the finale in the unofficial Death Trilogy written by Guillermo Arriaga (preceded by Amores Perros and 21 Grams), received seven Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay (Guillermo Arriaga), and Best Supporting Actress (both Barraza and Kikuchi). It was part of the triple play of fabulous films by Mexican directors in 2006, along with Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth (nominated for six Oscars, including Best Foreign Language Film) and Alfonso Cuarón’s Children of Men (three Oscar nominations, including Best Adapted Screenplay), all three of whom are among the world’s best filmmakers more than ten years later; Iñárritu’s films have earned three Best Picture nominations and two Best Foreign Language nods (Amores Perros, Biutiful), winning for Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance); he has been named Best Director twice, for Birdman and The Revenant. A 35mm print of Babel is screening May 19-21 at eleven o’clock in the morning in the IFC Center series “Weekend Classics: Border Crossings,” which continues Friday, Saturday, and Sunday mornings through July 2 with such other films as John Sayles’s Lone Star, the Coen brothers’ No Country for Old Men, and Gregory Nava’s El Norte.