Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths is a visually lush film. It’s worth seeing just for the surreal imagery and skillful cinematography. Bardo is clearly director and writer Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s reworking of Federico Fellini’s 8 1/2.
Iñárritu adopts the same narcissistic, childish, and misogynist attitudes that Fellini expressed in his film. 8 1/2 may be a masterpiece, but it is a deeply self-indulgent masterpiece. Bardo is less so, but it still retains the same male gaze and self-centered obsession.
Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths is broader than 8 1/2. Iñárritu includes social and political ideas about the history of the Americas. He jumps through time, touching on everything from Cortez to Trump.
Iñárritu also pushes further into surrealist filmmaking than Fellini, leaning more toward Alejandro Jodorowsky. In many films that deal with surrealism and dream imagery, there is a separation between reality and fantasy that slowly disintegrates until they are indistinguishable. In Bardo, both the real and the dream world are thoroughly blended right from the start. We are never given solid ground to stand on. It makes for a disorienting, but compelling whirlwind of surprising imagery.
Even with its long running time, Bardo maintains its energy and interest. It is a very skillfully crafted film. I’m unsure if the navel-gazing is just a reference to Fellini, or if it is baked into making these sort of films. Charlie Kaufman’s Synecdoche, New York seems to avoid some of the onanism of the other two, while still being bound up in one man’s inward vision. Perhaps the fact that Synecdoche, New York was Kaufman’s first film kept him from the excesses of egoism.
Bardo covers a lot of ground. It blends the full range of human experience into an ever-changing storm of imagery. The ideas and images arrange and rearrange in surprising ways that create new meanings like a rebus. The connections between scenes are less about chronology or logic, and more about meaning and association. What Iñárritu produces is something visually spectacular and full of rich information, even if it is suffused with narcissistic obsession.
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