Alejandro G. Iñárritu explores his inner journey with ‘Bardo’

Alejandro G. Iñárritu loves a song by Facundo Cabral entitled “No Soy de Aqui, Ni Soy de Allá”, which translates to “I am neither from here nor from there”. It’s a bittersweet ballad of being between lifelines: “I have no past or future, and being happy is the color of my identity.”

The filmmaker, a two-time Oscar winner for directing, can understand that.

Iñárritu’s new film, his most personal yet, is Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths. In Tibetan Buddhism, the bardo is a state of being between death and rebirth, the kind of borderline that the filmmaker has given much thought to. Born in Mexico City in 1963, he blew out the gate with the Mexican-made “Amores Perros” in 2000, then moved to Los Angeles and directed a number of increasingly acclaimed American films, including “21 Grams” (2003), ” Babel (2006), Birdman (2014) and The Revenant (2015).

“We thought we were going to be in California for a year, then 21 years went by like a week,” he says in a video call from Lyon, France, where he was showing the new film. “You are here and you belong to this immigrant and hybrid culture. Beyond the success or failure of this adventure, no matter what, the experience brings beautiful and great opportunities. But at the same time, a lot of it takes its toll, and there are a lot of things you lose. There are contradictions, uncertainties and paradoxes.”

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu stands for a portrait

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu

(Christopher Smith/Invision/AP)

Iñárritu speaks in a geyser of ideas, one flowing into the next. His films often create the same sensation. In “Bardo,” an acclaimed journalist and documentary filmmaker, Silverio Gacho (Daniel Giménez Cacho), returns to Mexico City from Los Angeles to accept a significant award. He pops into moments from his personal past, Mexican history, and dreamlike combinations of the two, including an elaborately theatrical re-enactment of a battle from the Mexican-American War (“It wasn’t a war, it was an invasion, you know,” says Iñárritu ). Silverio picks up barbs, some likable, some not so much, from old friends and colleagues who think he’s a sellout or a snob. In one scene, he meets his deceased father in a public restroom and shrinks to the size of a small boy.

Giménez, the actor who plays Silverio, was delighted to be a part of this surreal ride. He remembers the advice Iñárritu gave him: “Just be present and let it flow. There is no character. You don’t have to behave one way or the other. It’s all about you and how you are in this present.

“It was a great experience for me,” says Giménez. “I felt like I grew as I worked. It was joyful and fantastic.”

With nods to Fellini’s 8 ½ and some of Iñárritu’s favorite Latin magic realist authors – Jorge Luis Borges, Juan Rulfo, Gabriel García Márquez – “Bardo” reflects the inner journey of both the man on screen and the man behind the camera contrary . The film is a series of enchanting images strung together by unconscious logic.

“I feel like the more I say about this film, the more I give it away,” says Iñárritu. “How do you explain the atmosphere of a dream? I feel like when you explain a dream you tear it up. I try not to demand logic in the dream because logic has no place. When people come to watch the film with its autopilot, rational mode and demanding logic, it’s going to be a frustrating experience.”

Many critics found “Bardo” frustrating when it premiered at the Venice Film Festival in September. “Smug.” “Meandering.” Iñárritu took offense, at one point arguing that such language would not be used if he were not Mexican. “If I were perhaps Danish or Swedish, I would be a philosopher,” he said at the time. “But because I made it visually strong, I’m pretentious because I’m Mexican.” He bemoaned what he saw as a “racist undercurrent” of criticism of the film.

Today he is a little more confident. “I never thought of a newcomer with this film,” he says. “I did it for very deep personal reasons. That’s a very extreme need at my age. After the films I did I felt the right to express myself the way I wanted to express myself. And I’m always confident that the film will find the right audience.”

For all of the film’s subconscious explorations, Iñárritu also wanted to explore a topic that constantly finds its way into the news: the immigrant experience. Silverio feels out of place anywhere, whether in his native country or in his adopted country.

In one scene, when he’s returning to Los Angeles with his family, a Latino customs agent tells Silverio that he doesn’t actually live in the US. The Kafkaesque incident ends with Silverio being dragged out of the airport, literally kicking and screaming.

“I felt the need to speak from my personal perspective and personal experience about what that experience is for me and how I can reflect and speak about the universal phenomenon that from my perspective is the awareness of being an immigrant,” says Inárritu. “It’s the only perspective I can speak honestly from, no matter who I am. It was something I needed as a catharsis.

“But the Web is made up of things we can’t comprehend, things you can’t explain. That’s why you make a film.” Alejandro G. Iñárritu explores his inner journey with ‘Bardo’

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