Posted: July 19th, 2023

Tarantino and Iñárritu: Globalization Hollywood Style

Faulkner, Tarantino and Inarritu: Globalization Hollywood Style

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu has been accused of having a very disjointed style. In actuality, fans of Inarritu feel it is simply a gritty realism. This caused partly by the structure of the screen play, but also because of the extensive use of hand-held cameras that gives the film a very in your face look and appearance that the viewer is in the street. While this may be true, it does not matter to the serious movie buff who is not satisfied to leave his intellect behind and stuff his mind with special effects and chase scenes. It is the opinion of this author that Inarritu does not have a disjointed style. Rather, his films reflect the thoroughly prevalent and troublesome social changes that globalization are bringing through societies globally in this day and age that we are all grappling with.

For the viewing aficionado, there is the style of film making now known as portmanteau. Similar to a Faulkner novel which has multiple stories and plots operating all at once, this genre as film was originally inspired by the film Pulp Fiction and is becoming much more widespread and in demand. The slick style of Hollywood pop cinema pervades the piece, even in a flaunting manner. The film does not endeavor to hide this and indeed it gives it its attraction in global markets (D’Lugo 221).

This type of film purposefully takes a number of small separate stories and ties them together with a common incident. By doing this, the viewer gets a tableau of different cultural images and plot and story lines rapid fire in Jungian gestalt fashion. This stream of consciousness allows the viewer to become involved in a mystical level in the film’s plot and allows them to connect more to the characters on a superior empathetic level.

While many viewers do not appreciate Inarritu’s “disjointed” style, it is the author’s opinion that these viewers do not have much cultural depth. If these people lived during the time of Leo Tolstoy, they would not be reading War and Peace but instead dime novels and penny papers for the barely literate. Like Tolstoy, Inarritu is developing a peasant sensitive mysticism that is fetching and brings the viewer pause about the futility of the way we live life in the modern world. Tolstoy and Inarritu both have an anarchistic view of the world but unlike Tolstoy, Inarritu has not yet worked out the solutions. It will be interesting to see how this develops in the future.

Besides Tolstoy, William Faulkner can be seen in Inarritu’s work. Inarritu would not be the first that Faulkner has influenced. Faulkner influenced not just Inarritu, but also Quentin Tarantino. Scholar Shisuke Ohchi believes that both mainly borrow his technique of the seemingly disjointed merger of several smaller story lines that are linked together simply by the common thread of an accident or tragedy. To bolster this, she quotes Inarritu who says that “I was surprised when people said that Amores Perros was like Pulp Fiction. I admire that move, but I based my script on William Falkner” (Ohchi 3). Inarritu uses Faulkner’s technique of fragmenting the time and space in a story line, as well as Faulkner’s them of the absence of a father. These fragmented segments are then arranged purposefully out of chronological order. The technique of fragmenting the timeline of a story effectively divides the story into one story using multiple narrators or one story using multiple narratives. The protagonists differ then from each other.

In this essay, a trilogy Inarritu’s will be considered: Amores Perros, 21 Grams, and Babel. The two films will be contrasted and compared with Babel, showing the development of Inarritu’s methodology in more than six years of film making. In many ways, the trilogy is about globalization and its discontents. It is about the people who have fallen out of favor in the New World Order. This portrayal stands in stark contrast to the promises of globalization. Mystically, it was supposed to be something magical, angelic and sacred in the promise of economic and cultural collaboration. Unfortunately, it has not brought democratic diversity but rather a proliferation of Machiavellian conflicts and of cultural and political fragmentation. This both invites and resists a corporate global conformity. The results of the effects of globalization upon the lives of the common people of all of the non-upper classes are considered in detail in its their context.

The underlying and not so pretty reality of globalization is exactly what Inarritu explores. In one thoughtless act (like the butterfly effect in the atmosphere) people in many parts of an area or around the world can be affected. Lives can be changed and broken in ways that no one thought of or intended. In many ways, like Tolstoy, human folly brings down God’s wrath and this wrath is globalization. We care more about our crass material wants and the divine power gives it to us until we beg for what really matters-humanity.

Is this a Mexican renaissance? Alejandro Gonzalez’s first feature Amores Perros gave Mexico a greater prominence on the map of world cinema than it had had for years. In this first film, Inarritu and screenwriter has made a film about three people whose lives are forever affected by a car crash.

This is evidenced by the fact that Inarritu’s first film Amores Perros has been called the “Mexican Pulp Fiction.” While structurally, Inarritu’s films are similar to both Quentin Tarantion and Akira Kurosawa, other influences such as Luis Bunuel, Martin Scorsese, Terrence Malick, Michelangelo Antonioni, John Ford, Alfred Hitchcock and many others. The influence of Hitchcock is clear when in Amores Perros Inarritu inserts himself into the second story sequence as an art director. It is understandable that Amores Perros is widely considered as a flagship film for a new and confident Mexican film industry.

The film’s stories are connected only by the common thread of a car accident and the theme of human cruelty to animals and to each other. Amores Perros represents the open divisions between classes in the general Mexican society through its portrayal of characters from the middle, working, and under classes. The authority figures do not come off well, including the Mexican police who are completely corrupt. Needless to say, Inarritu’s view of Mexican society, in particular the police, is not flattering.

Expanding upon Inarritu’s critique of Mexicanidad, he has developed a critique of the futility of the human condition and points out how interconnected we are. This extends out from the barrios of his Mexico City to a global web of interconnectedness to Inarritu’s other films. The sub-stories portray the polarization gripping Mexican society in the recent ears that have followed IMF (International Monetary Fund) imposed austerity and the North American Free Trade Agreement (Hirschberg).

The consequences of this economic globalization dictated by giant banks and international corporations causes a grinding poverty that pushes the characters to the brink of desperation as they try to survive. This is particularly clear in the third sub-story in the life of El Chivo, the ex-guerilla fighter become professional hit man. His life was ruined by corporate greed and now he has sold himself as a hired gun to earn his bread. According to Ohchi, Amores Perros consists of three narratives whose protagonists differ from each other, but are interconnected (Ohchi. 3)

Like his previous film Amores Perros, Inarritu in 21 Grams ties the plots together with the commonality of a car wreck. Although superficially similar to 21 Grams it definitely treads new ground. “Even if it sounds familiar, this story is completely different” insists Inarritu. “All Amores Perros and this one have in common is that there are people with eyes and a nose and mouths and ears. I feel this film will affect people in a deeper way than Amores Perros. The fact is, I think Amores Perros is more exotic. This film is more intimate, and the characters are closer to everyone’s life.” (Romney) Making sense of 21 Grams is not easy, but not as difficult as it initially looks, even with all of the apparent hidden patterns. We are logical animals in many ways, even with all of our irrationalities.

Inarritu has had to defend his film against followers of Mexican films that were expecting a Mexican sequel. He is not into cheap local patriotism that masquerades as cinema originality. Truly, Inarritu is cultivating an international following. 21 Grams was initially written in Spanish and set in Mexico, but once it got U.S. funding, the locale was set in Memphis, Tennessee. This gave the movie a real gritty feel. It was not a city that had had a makeover.

This 2003 film varies and twists the genre not only but handling several stories at the same time, but several time lines and different simultaneously. In other words, before and after the accident situations and reality are presented. The main characters each have past, present and future story fragments that break up the story in staccato fashion, but all merging together and coalescing in the end of the overall story.

In 21 Grams, the narrative darkens and is localized. Inarritu deepens his exploration of class differences, but this time on the U.S. side of the New World Order that has been brought about by the North American Free Trade Agreement. According to Ohchi, 21 Grams consists of three narratives whose protagonists differ from each other, but are interconnected (ibid. 3-4)

Babel is just really Amores Perros and 21 Grams written on an international canvas and echoes much of the social commentary in Inarritu’s 2000 maiden film. According to Soelistyo and Setiawan, another term for this type of film is hyperlink cinema. While in many films, this methodology can result in a film where the interlocking stories spin out of control, in Babel Inarritu is fully in command and retains full control of the stories and plot lines (Soelistyo and Setiawan 176). As the name implies, seemingly disparate story lines are worked together to make a whole film. As with Inarritu’s other films, the best example that this author can compare it with is Tolstoy’s War and Peace with its various distinct story and plot lines.

A critique of globalism and the insensitivity to local cultures permeates Inarritu’s films and Babel is the penultimate of these. It is made up of four smaller stories spanning three continents and is spoken of in five languages, English, Spanish, Berber, Japanese and Arabic. According to Ohchi, Babel consists of four narratives whose protagonists differ and have but a few connections (ibid. 4)

The social and political commentary in Babel is implicit and obvious. What is interesting is that he also weighs in against the worldwide war on terror in the Morrocan sequence and indirectly against gun ownership, given the popularity of the .270 Winchester bullet amongst hunters. The weapon and the ammunition that fires it was popularized by Jack O’Connor who used the cartridge for 40 years and praised in Outdoor Life. Inarritu is condemning the popularization of firearms and violence via the corporate controlled media and also cruelty against animals because the herders are using it against the jackals that are simply preying on the herds for food.

In addition, Babel weighs in on not just complex international political relationships, but also complicated relationships between children and parents. Not only do borders divide our world (many times fatally) on not only national lines and between nations and cultures, but also within families and clans. While these borderlines are recognized in the “real” world, the real divides are in our hearts and souls and whose erasure demands compassion. Inarritu concludes by saying that “something that we have been losing for the last many years and is what drove me during the process of making this film (Philben).”

According to Soelistyo and Setiawan, there is a complex system going on inside of Babel. In their view, the film plot’s structure is similar to a quantum physic theory of complex systems where concepts such a complexity, indeterminacy and non-linearity. In such a situation, components can become mutually entangled so that change in one component will propagate through its integration to other components. These will in turn propagate through the interactions to other components that in turn will like the butterfly effect affect even more components. The dynamics of such a system are very hard to track in terms of the elements.

In such a system indeterminacy means that the distinction made by one observer in one context might no longer be that meaningful or even possible for an observer in another context. While two actions may be going on at once, our limited perceptions do not allow us to see them both at the same time.

Also complex systems are nonlinear. In such a complex system, interdependencies are such that inputs will affect outputs and the outputs will also affect inputs. In Babel for instance, the shot from a hunting rifle hits a bus wounding a woman. The incident then sparks an international incident as police look for the person who did the shooting (Soelistyo and Setiawan 178-179).

Are Inarritu’s films helping in the quest to educate good global citizenship? This seems to be the case. Unlike Ohchi, in “Is Film a Universal Language? Educating Students as Global Citizens,” Carolyn Durham claims that Amores Perros is not a knockoff of Quentin Tarantino’s pulp fiction but is a unique presentation of Mexicanidad and an accurate portrayal of Inarritu’s Mexico City (Durham 29). She believes that his presentation is unsullied by copying Quentin Tarantino’s film. This then squares with his claim that he faithfully follows Faulkner to a tee.

Inarritu’s films, beginning with the film Amores Perros and ending up with the film Babel, represent a curriculum in global civics and good citizenship. Beginning in the Mexican barrio and ending up on a global tableau, we are being taught that we are all our brother’s (and sister’s) keeper. Everything and everyone in the world is connected and affect each other in butterfly fashion. We can not just do our own things and expect to not positively or negatively affect the rest of humanity. This new awakening zeitgeist will teach us that we are not just Mexicans, Americans, Moroccans, etc. We are world citizens who owe our allegiance to all of humanity, not to a silly and divisive nationalism.

Shaw and De La Garza in “Introducing Transnational Cinemas” speak about a move afoot to “account for…an approach to film-making that takes on transnational dimensions in Babel…Babel is regarded by many as a quintessential transnational film…on account of its production processes (Shaw and De La Garza 5) the transnational globalism that brings Babel about ties together four narrative threads set in three continents. The focus includes travel, migration and also border-crossing and intercultural communication in a digitally-divided world. The global production context of the film is directly linked to its structure and content. This has the function of forming a global culture that will supersede national film-making.

In conclusion, globalization is a thoroughly established issue that all societies in this day and age must now grapple with. Film is both the reflection of and the voice of the masses, but also of the corporate controlled media. Like all film makers, but especially those who make art films, Inarritu and his like have to deal delicately and tread lightly, even while it may not seem like it to the uninitiated. Certainly, Inarritu knows that he can only go so far in pushing his points for his films to be aired at all. By spreading the message out Faulkner style (or even Tolstoy style), he cuts at the issue a bit at a time. Also, his messages can be hidden in the multiple story lines that he is managing all at one time.

By feeding his global audience these messages a bit at a time, he makes it possible to spread his critique of the very globalism that he has to take care in criticizing. This keeps him from getting blacklisted. It is also part of what makes art films more interesting and challenging. You have to think harder and analyze more, but the experience is much more rewarding in the end.

Works Cited

D’Lugo, Marvin D. “Amores Perros Love’s a Bitch.” From the Cinema of Latin

America ed. Alberto Elena & Marina Diaz Lopez. London: Wallflower Press. 2003.

Durham, Carolyn a. “Is Film a Universal Language? Educating Students as Global

Citizens.” ADFL Bulletin. 40.1 (2008): 27-29.

Hirschberg, . “A New Mexican: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu.” New York Times

Magazine. New York Times, 18 March 2001. Retrieved 12 May 2010 From. .

Ohchi, Shinsuke. William Faulkner and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu: The

Fragmentation of Time and Space in a Story. U. Of the West Indies, 2000.…/amoresperrosanalysiscinemaoflatinamerica.rtf.

Romney, Jonathon. “Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu: This is the jigsaw of our lives.” the

Independent Films. The Independent Films, 22 February 2004. Retrieved 12 May 2010. .

Philben, Robert. “Globalism and the films of Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu.” NTH

Position., 2007. Retrieved 12 May 2010. .

Shaw, Deborah, and Armida De La Garza. “Introducing Transnational Cinema.”

Transnational Cinema 2010: 3-6.

Soelistyou, Liliek, and Dwi Setiawan. “The Complex System in Babel.” Kata. 10.2

(2008): 175-184.

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