"Love’s a bitch," affirms this carnal vision from Mexico.

Apr 25, 2001 at 12:00 am

Audacious, brutal, brilliant and relentlessly bleak, Amores Perros offers no platitudes and little comfort. What novelist-screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga (A Sweet Smell of Death) and director Alejandro González Iñárritu provide is a startlingly visceral journey through the social strata of Mexico City, where characters are brought together by their loves (amores), their dogs (perros) and a car crash which alters the destinies they’ve so carefully laid out for themselves.

Octavio (Gael García Bernal), who loves his brutal brother’s wife, Susana (Vanessa Bauche), discovers that the docile family pet is a natural warrior in the illicit, deadly sport of dogfighting (these sequences are gut-wrenchingly intense). He sees this lucrative pursuit as a way to escape their dead-end existence. Magazine editor Daniel (Álvaro Guerrero) has left his wife and family to set up house with leggy model Valeria (Goya Toledo), only to have their apartment turn into a psychological torture chamber after she’s injured in that crash. Once a greatly feared anti-government terrorist, El Chivo (Emilio Echevarría) is now a shadow of his former self, almost invisible as a street person who cares for a pack of stray dogs. This background makes him ideally suited to be a killer for hire.

Amores Perros fuses a contemporary political conscience with an older, more ingrained sense of fatalism. The tragedies here are often biblical (if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans, recites one character), with fate functioning as a heavy burden. But there’s also the distinct feeling that pain is the result of individual choices.

What Arriaga has created with a complex, multilayered screenplay, González Iñárritu has rendered with a style that’s bold, confident and intoxicating. Amores Perros is the result of a truly cinematic imagination, one which uses external actions to reveal the hidden lives of characters who intimately understand Charles Bukowski’s edict: Love is a dog from hell.

Opens Friday exclusively at the Main Art Theatre (118 N. Main, Royal Oak). Call 248-542-0180.

Serena Donadoni writes about film for the Metro Times. E-mail her at [email protected].