|Directed by||Alejandro González Iñárritu|
|Screenplay by||Guillermo Arriaga|
|Produced by||Alejandro González Iñárritu|
Gael García Bernal
|Edited by||Alejandro González Iñárritu|
Fernando Pérez Unda
|Music by||Gustavo Santaolalla|
Alta Vista Films
|Distributed by||Nu Vision|
|Box office||$20.9 million|
Amores perros is a 2000 Mexican psychological drama film directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu (in his feature directorial debut) and written by Guillermo Arriaga, based on a story by them both. Amores perros is the first installment in González Iñárritu's "Trilogy of Death", succeeded by 21 Grams and Babel. It makes use of the multi-narrative hyperlink cinema style and features an ensemble cast. The film is constructed as a triptych: it contains three distinct stories connected by a car accident in Mexico City. The stories centre on a teenager in the slums who gets involved in dogfighting; a model who seriously injures her leg; and a mysterious hitman. The stories are linked in various ways, including the presence of dogs in each of them.
The title is a pun in Spanish; the word "perros", which literally means "dogs", can also be used to refer to misery, so that it roughly means 'bad loves' with canine connotations. The film was released under its Spanish title in the English-speaking world, although it was sometimes translated as Love's a Bitch in marketing. The soundtrack includes songs by Latin American rock bands including Café Tacuba, Control Machete, and Bersuit Vergarabat.
Amores perros premiered on May 14, 2000 at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival and went on a Mexican release on June 16, 2000. Amores perros was a Mexican commercial and critical success and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 2000 and won the Ariel Award for Best Picture from the Mexican Academy of Film. Amores perros has been considered one of the best Mexican films by many. Filmmaker Denis Villeneuve praised Amores perros as one of the best films of the 21st century.
In December 2020, Amores perros was remastered by The Criterion Collection.
The film is constructed from three distinct stories linked by a car accident that brings the characters briefly together.
Octavio (Gael García Bernal) is in love with his brother's wife Susana (Vanessa Bauche) and dislikes the way she is abused by his brother Ramiro (Marco Pérez). Octavio tries to persuade her to run away with him. Local thug Jarocho, happy after winning in a dog fight, lets his dog loose on some strays and is threatened by a vagrant wielding a machete. Eventually, Jarocho sics his dog on Octavio's rottweiler, Cofi, but his own dog is killed instead. Made aware of this by his friend Jorge and needing money to start his new life with Susana, Octavio decides to become involved in the dogfighting scene. Jarocho keeps entering new dogs into the fights, only for Cofi to kill them. Octavio makes enough money to flee with Susana, and pays Mauricio, the owner of the dogfighting venue, to get Ramiro beaten up. Afraid, Ramiro steals the money and leaves with Susana. Struggling financially, Octavio accepts a challenge by Jarocho to participate in a private dogfight, with no outside bets. Cofi is about to win, but Jarocho shoots him. The infuriated Octavio stabs Jarocho in the stomach. Pursued by Jarocho's thugs, Octavio finds himself in a car chase with Jorge and the wounded Cofi. A collision follows; Jorge dies and Octavio is badly injured.
Magazine publisher Daniel (Álvaro Guerrero) leaves his family to live with his lover Valeria (Goya Toledo), a Spanish supermodel. On the day they move in together, Valeria's leg is severely broken in Octavio's car accident and she is unable to continue working as a model. One day, as Valeria is recuperating in Daniel's apartment, her dog Richie disappears under a broken floorboard and stays there for several days. The missing dog triggers serious tension for the couple, causing numerous fights which lead to doubts about their relationship on both sides. Daniel calls his estranged wife to hear her voice, suggesting that he regrets leaving her for Valeria. Trying to rescue the dog, Valeria again injures her leg; Daniel finds her hours later. Valeria's new leg injury results in severe arterial thrombosis and eventually gangrene. Her leg is amputated, ending Valeria's modeling career for good. While she is in the hospital, Daniel rescues Richie from the floorboards. However, Valeria realizes that her life is now ruined. She quietly drives her wheelchair through the torn-up lovenest and looks out of the window expecting to see a billboard bearing her likeness, only to find it has been removed.
The vagrant occasionally seen in Octavio's story is revealed to be a professional hitman called El Chivo (Emilio Echevarría). Leonardo, a corrupt police commander, recounts that El Chivo is a former private school teacher who was imprisoned after committing terrorist acts for guerrilla movements. When he got out, Leonardo started getting him jobs as a hitman. El Chivo tries to make contact with his daughter, Maru, whom he abandoned when he began his guerrilla involvement. Following El Chivo's wishes, Maru's mother told her that her father is dead. El Chivo is about to perform a hit on a businessman when Octavio's car crash interrupts him. During the chaos at the car crash , El Chivo steals Octavio's money and takes the wounded Cofi to his home to nurse the dog back to health. One day, while El Chivo is away from his warehouse hideout, Cofi kills the other mongrel dogs El Chivo is caring for. Despite initially planning to kill Cofi, El Chivo figures that the dog does not know any better and that its violence is a reflection of his own life as a hitman. Meanwhile, Octavio's brother Ramiro is shot and killed by Leonardo's plain-clothes bodyguard during an attempted bank robbery.
At Ramiro's funeral, a gravely wounded Octavio sees Susana for the first time since she and Ramiro fled with his money. Despite having been wronged, Octavio again attempts to convince Susana to run away with him, but she becomes angry with the fact that Octavio is willing to run away with her after she has just lost a loved one. A few days later, Octavio is shown waiting at the bus station for Susana. She never shows up, and Octavio doesn't board the bus. Still grieving for his other dogs, El Chivo learns that his client and his intended victim are half-brothers. He leaves both men alive and chained to separate walls with a pistol within reach between them, their fate left uncertain. El Chivo then breaks into his daughter Maru's house and leaves her a large bundle of money along with a message on her answering machine explaining what happened to him and why the family split up. When El Chivo is about to tell Maru that he loves her, the answering machine stops recording. He then goes to an autoshop, where he sells the client's SUV. The mechanic asks him the dog's name, and El Chivo calls him "Negro" ("Black"). After El Chivo receives the money for the car, he and Negro walk away, disappearing into the horizon.
Each of the three tales is a reflection on the cruelty of humans towards both animals and other humans, showing how humans may live dark or even hideous lives. But the film's theme is loyalty, as symbolized by the dog, "man's best friend". Dogs are important to the main characters in each of the three stories, and in each story various forms of human loyalty or disloyalty are shown: disloyalty to a brother by trying to seduce the brother's wife, disloyalty to a wife by keeping a mistress with subsequent disloyalty to the mistress when she is injured and loses her beauty, loss of loyalty to youthful idealism and rediscovered loyalty to a daughter as a hit-man falls from and then attempts to regain grace.
Dogfighting is banned in all Latin American countries but exists as an element of the underground economy. Although violent, dogfighting provides an opportunity for Octavio to make money. This is true to life in the sense that participating in the underground economy gives people in the lower class the ability to make money and experience mobility. González Iñárritu was heavily criticized for his inclusion of dogfighting in the film but has claimed that although it is horrible, dogfighting is one of the harsh realities of Mexico City.
The three overlapping stories all take place in Mexico City, but because of class division, there is severe segregation of economic classes with El Chivo squatting on the outskirts of town, Octavio living in a working-class neighborhood, and Valeria living in a luxurious high-rise apartment. If not for the car accident, these three characters would never interact. The upper class is victimized in Amores perros even when they are the ones perpetuating crime. For instance, El Chivo is hired to kill a man's business partner and eventually decides to leave both men to fight it out themselves. Although Ramiro works at a grocery store, he also participates in the underground economy by committing robberies. Octavio and El Chivo participate in the underground economy as well, in order to secure untaxed income and bring stability to their lives.
Amores perros contains domestic violence, gun violence, and animal cruelty. The domestic violence is evident in the relationship between Ramiro and his wife, Susana, when Ramiro beats his younger brother Octavio with a metal rod while Octavio takes a shower, as well as in Valeria and Daniel's relationship as they both begin to become verbally and physically aggressive after Valeria becomes depressed. Gun violence is seen from the beginning of the film in a frantic car chase until the very end when El Chivo hands the gun to the two business partners, leaving them to fight their own battle. Lastly, animal cruelty is quite visible in the dog fights Octavio attends in order to make money off of his dog, Cofi. The dog owners show no empathy toward their dogs.
Produced by Zeta Film and AltaVista Films, production began on 12 April 1999.
The DVD of Amores perros has a commentary track, by the director and the screenplay writer. A controversial aspect of the film is the dog fighting sequences. González Iñárritu explains that no dogs were harmed during the making of Amores perros. In the scenes where dogs are apparently attacking each other, they were actually playing. Their muzzles were covered with fine fishing line, so that they were unable to bite another dog. In the shots where dogs are apparently dead or dying, they were sedated (under supervision of the Mexican SPCA). The grittiness of the scenes is amplified by quick cuts and sound effects. Another unusual aspect of the production of Amores perros was the danger to the cast and film crew while filming in the poor parts of Mexico City. The director and some of the crew were actually robbed by street gangs. The Director cut includes a cameo from the veteran Japanese singer Kazuyo Togawa singing A cappella, credited as "Fat Lady".
The film was critically acclaimed and received many nominations and awards. Review aggregate Rotten Tomatoes reports that 92% of critics have given the film a positive review based on 118 reviews, with an average score of 7.75/10, making the film a "Certified Fresh" on the website's rating system. The consensus reads "The brutality of Amores Perros may be difficult to watch at times, but this intense, gritty film packs a hard wallop". On Metacritic, it has a score of 83 out of 100 based on 31 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".
Amores perros drew widespread attention to and condemnation of the practice of dog fighting in Mexico. Lead actress Vanessa Bauche has supported animal advocates' anti-dogfighting campaign. Dog fighting was finally outlawed in Mexico on 24 June 2017.
Amores Perros has been attacked for its savage dogfight scenes.
The practice [of dogfighting], put on display years ago in the movie Amores Perros – whose leading actress, Vanessa Bauche, has supported our anti-dogfighting campaign – has been a persistent and widespread animal welfare problem in Mexico
The blood sport of dog fighting became illegal today in Mexico.