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Reviewed by:
  • Alejandro González Iñárritu
  • Gerardo Cummings
Celestino Deleyto and María del Mar Azcona. Alejandro González Iñárritu. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2010. 176 pp.

Alejandro González Iñárritu exploded into the scene of contemporary world cinema in 2000 with the release of Amores Perros in Mexico. Lauded by most, and derided by few, the film went on to win him a throng of fans and followers that immediately wanted to work with him, act for him, or produce his films. Post–Amores Perros, González Iñárritu would go on to direct 21 Grams (2003) and Babel (2006)—the three feature-length films included in this book. His latest film, Biutiful (2010), was in production at the time of the book’s writing, explaining why the aforementioned three films are the only ones analyzed within the book. At 153 pages, Celestino Deleyto and María del Mar Azcona’s Alejandro González Iñárritu may seem like a premature effort and short foray into the analytical study of a filmmaker’s brief oeuvre. Putting said doubts aside, it is easy to see why Alejandro González Iñárritu has received such positive reaction from PopMatters calling it “[a]n excellent analysis of the director’s style” and from the incomparable David William Foster who wrote that Deleyto and Azcona’s book is “[a] model of impeccable scholarship and writing [. . .] and [it] demonstrates a solid and secure understanding of Iñárritu’s role in moving Mexican filmmaking toward a more globalized focus.” I concur that Alejandro González Iñárritu is a bold filmmaker unafraid of deconstructing conventions in cinema and that this book is the best vehicle to understanding him.

Deleyto and Azcona’s introductory chapter is exemplary in the manner in which it contextualizes Alejandro González Iñárritu and his films in multiple ways: as purveyor of “independent films” and transnational cinema, as immersed in issues related to national identity and “mexicanidad” and as a prime example of auteur theory. The authors of the study are keen to use terms such as “sequential narrative,” “emotional time,” and “rhetoric of excess.” While such terminology may result pedantic to a Barnes and Noble customer picking up this book by accident, it is nevertheless appropriate in critical circles that are familiar with literary criticism and cinematic concepts of—as Seymour Chatman would put it—“story and discourse.” Deleyto and Azcona’s use of cinematic and cultural theories throughout the book is exceptional. A prime example is the tour-de-force chapter dedicated to Babel, where they pointedly discuss issues related to the Tijuana diaspora, to referencing Manu Chao’s “Bienvenida a Tijuana” song and the charged symbolism permeating every pore of the film. The authors allude to the characterization of Amelia—played by Adriana Barraza—as a sort of Virgin of Guadalupe in a still from the movie where Amelia is juxtaposed with an automobile’s decal of the revered Virgin. The reference to the Mexican religious icon is not fortuitous: Amelia goes above and beyond the call of duty to keep the children in her care safe. If one were to follow Deleyto and Azcona’s exploration of connections, intertexualities, or homages that González Iñárritu [End Page 242] owes to other cultural texts, I would have to cite the protagonist of Jean Pierre Jeunet’s Amelie (2001) as a possible inspiration for Barraza’s Amelia, someone who selflessly gives all without expecting anything in return. The authors also present an intelligent analysis of González Iñárritu’s use of the “conventions of the multiprotagonist film” (56), his use of “multiplicity of perspectives” (58), and his use of repetitions as part of the narrative structure of Babel (57). Pointing out these and other conventional and unconventional approaches to cinematic narration, in this and all other González Iñárritu films, makes the experience of watching them less challenging for the viewer and allows us to properly contextualize the filmmaker and the points he is trying to get across.

The concluding chapter—for lack of a better term—decimates the intellectual peaks that Deleyto and Azcona had reached in the previous chapters...


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pp. 242-243
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