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Babbling into the world

Posted at 4:06 PM on November 1, 2006 by Euan Kerr

So much about movie-going is about personal mood. Sometimes you are in the mood for Bergman, sometimes Sandler. Sometimes you are just in the mood for something with a little celluloid protein.

I was in the mood for "Babel."

Director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu ("Amores Perros," "21 Grams") skillfully weaves three stories set in different parts of the world while making the simple but powerful point that language can divide as much as unite us. He makes a few pretty good points about privilege, entitlement, self-interest, and willful ignorance too.

The stories could stand on their own but gain power in the way they interlock. There's the American couple in Morocco (Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett) suddenly facing the real prospect of a horrible death in a dusty town. There's the knock-on effect for the Mexican woman caring for their children back in San Diego, who has to decide what to do with her charges when she has to go on a trip. And then there is the what is in the end the most compelling story of all, of a deaf teenaged girl in Japan.

Inarritu places the viewer in each of these scenarios, but it is in the Japanese story that he dunks you hardest, throwing a disorienting experience which leaves you spinning.

If you have never felt the terrible loneliness of being in a crowded room where you don't speak the language, you will now. It's more important than you might think.

November 2006
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