Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Cannes 2006 - Babel

Having arrived in Cannes last night I was able to see my first film this morning at 8.30 - Babel, directed by Alejandro Inarritu and written by Guillermo Arriaga.

It's a multiple narrative, with four separate stories that overlap and interlink, and for me it highlighted both the strengths and weaknesses of an increasingly common genre.

As in the Oscar-winning Crash, Babel's multiple stories allow a number of big name actors to have powerful storylines - it's a great way to get Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Koji Yakusho and Gael Garci­a Bernal in the same film. Each storyline is compelling in its own right and the performances are very strong. Jumping from story to story and country to country means that you're unlikely to get bored.

The concern is whether it adds up to anything very much. Common humanity separated by different languages (hence the title)? Maybe. But for me it felt like four totally separate stories no one of which was entirely satisfying.

Short Cuts, adapted and directed by Robert Altman from Raymond Carver's stories, which started the modern craze for multiple narratives in 1993, seemed to add up to more than the sum of its parts. I'm not sure the same could be said for Babel, even though it already seems to be generating an award-winning buzz

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