I need to see a few films before I compile my best of 2006, as I need to see The Queen, Letters From Iwo Jima and The Lives of Others. If you notice the high scores of three of the films I saw in January you might notice the connection of three of them—a Mexican director. Those films—Children of Men, Pan’s Labyrinth and Babel will all by going for spaces in the my top 10 of ’06.
I loved those three films so much it will be hard to rank them against each other. Maybe I should give the trio a tie for the top spot and say Mexico wins? Take what you think are the three best directors from each country in the world and compare them with Guillermo del Toro, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and Alfonso Cuaron and it will be a serious battle between what country wins. These gentlemen are making great, challenging works of art that can be thought of as best in the world after their last three films were released.
The most surprising in this group of three has to be del Toro for Pan’s Labyrinth. While I’ve enjoyed some of del Toro’s past films (Cronos and The Devil’s Backbone), nothing quite readied me for Pan’s Labyrinth and its blend of history, fantasy and brutality. Pan’s Labyrinth is breathtaking as you watch it but its most important quality is the fact you can’t stop yourself from thinking about it weeks after you’ve seen it. I know I haven’t as it creeps back into my mind from time to time.
The least surprising is Inarritu, and his latest partnership with writer Guillermo Arriaga, in Babel. I highly enjoyed Inarritu’s first two films, Amores Perros and 21 Grams, but the duo have gone all epic on us. Babel is set in multiple continents, has multiple story lines, uses multiple languages and has a non-linear framework that challenges you to think deeply about what you are witnessing. I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to write that last part of the sentence about a director making films today. Babel maybe a lot of things, and you may either love it or hate it, but I found it gut wrenching, invigorating and highly artistic (pay attention to all the various film stocks/techniques Inarritu uses as he moves from setting to setting).
Children of Men is the kind of film that I’m an easy mark to enjoy. If it’s about a dystopian future world I’m gonna be into it. I’ve loved stories like this since I was a teenager and discovering science fiction. I was not expecting the film to be as good as it was as I watched incredulous from the middle of the theatre. Cuaron’s film is so controlled, grey, oppressive and dark as ideas, dialog and action fly by at such a pace that I am certain this will go down as one of the all-time dystopian films in a few years. It’s that good.
How to choose the best of these three thrillingly different and wonderful movies? Maybe I won’t be able to and I’ll declare Mexico and movie lovers the true winner? Viva Mexico!