BARDO, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths

Directed by: Alejandro González Iñárritu
Distributed by: Netflix

Written by Taylor Baker

55/100

“At this age life starts to feel like a convulsion.”

Impressively self-indulgent, Iñárritu’s first feature film since “The Revenant” is a stilted bombastic plunge into the narcissist’s dilemma. Stumbling through its narrative convention, steeped between reality and fiction never clearly differentiating itself between dream sequences and real events. “BARDO” opens on a POV shot of a shadow against a cracked Mexican desert, the camera and form that cast the shadow move as one building up speed and jumping, until the camera tilts up and captures the horizon of the desert, mountains, and skyline. The subsequent runtime of “BARDO” for good or ill more or less explains this opaque opening sequence.

Formally proficient with gorgeous digital cinematography, sprawling set pieces, exquisitely dressed interiors, and masterful transitions, there’s an enormity of worth to find in “BARDO” which is partially what makes its lukewarm tonality and tepid commitment to being clear frustrating. But it’s for those exact creative choices that “BARDO” is distinguishable from most of the biographical films by Iñárritu’s contemporaries, whether Gray’s “Armageddon Time” (which Darius Khondji also shot) or Branagh’s “Belfast,” they wreak of the exact conventionality that Iñárritu shirks. However, the film does lean a bit too much on the forgiveness of being unclear, in an early sequence where he converses in a stateroom with an American man the ADR is noticeably poor, and sporadically along the runtime the audio mix falters.

In so far as Silverio is a stand-in for Iñárritu there are notable divergences from reality such as a stroke he has in California which causes one to not know to what degree the protagonist’s experiences are to be read as sincere concerns of Alejandro and what level they work as embellishments. All this hemming and hawing ultimately cause one to not take it too seriously which is ultimately another point he makes overtly multiple times. Both Silverio and the film find joy in dancing, chasing his topless wife around the kitchen, and sneaking up on his daughter while she’s embroiled in thought. It is perhaps in reading the tone that film takes on in any given scene that we can find the morsels of truth left by Iñárritu.

“BARDO, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths” reeks of the pretension that it is a subsequent reaction to the critique of. Often at these levels of extrapolation and narcissism films fall apart, so it’s a testament to Iñárritu and his team that “BARDO” never feels less than well made, even if it is insufferable most of the time.

“BARDO, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths” Trailer

You can follow more of Taylor’s thoughts on film on LetterboxdTwitter, and Rotten Tomatoes.

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