Amores Perros (18)

Review by Simon Bell

THE winner of some 25 and counting international festival awards or nominations, Amores Perros (the original translation "Doggie-style" was dropped in favour of the supposedly more timid "Love's A Bitch") tells its tripartite tale through flashback and flashforward after its three principals are involved in a devastating road accident.

Octavio, a young teenager, decides to run away with Susanna, his brother's wife while his dog Cofi becomes a vicious instrument to get the money they need to elope.

Meanwhile, 42-year-old Daniel leaves his wife and daughters to move in with celebrity model Valeria. Said couple then slowly descend into their own Hall of Hades when Richi, the model's pampered poodle, becomes trapped under the apartment's wooden floorboards.

Elsewhere, El Chivo, a former communist guerilla out of prison and working as a dog-loving, hired assassin finds the dying Cofi which he steals and heals, leading to a life-shattering experience and consequent re-awakening.

Set against a baroque and beautiful Mexico City that's simultaneously full to its brim with violence, corruption and pollution, the world of Amores Perros rips across the screen and your conscience with all the delicacy of one of its bloodthirsty dogfights; its characters each a different manifestation of pain and hope; its organic dialogue bristling with fraught emotion.

As the three lives collide we're treated to such arresting images as blood spilt suggestively on a sizzling hotplate. Other sequences see cooking and frying continually shock cut to varying forms of mutilation and disgorging. There are plentiful shock cuts also from dogs to graveyards, dogs to fried meat (you can almost smell the mangy dogs in all their squalor).

Likewise, violence rears its ugly head in anything and everything from eating to sex: all captured with brilliance by Rodrigo Prieto's camerawork and played to the battering of the ears with Mexican hip hop, grinding out a beat to match.

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu possesses a storytelling ability, driving the tired split narrative to new dimensions, to blast Tarantino out the water and an imagination and talent to put most other of his peers to utter shame. Ultimately, it may verge towards the overlong for some, but for most it will provide 153 minutes of pure cinematic majesty.