Bardo, Falsa Crónica de unas Cuantas Verdades (Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths) FL, 2022, 4 ¼ stars

Transitional tale

Bardo both belies and embraces its Buddhist subtext

Exclusive to MeierMovies, December 19, 2022

There’s often a fine line between Surrealism and Absurdism, with some of the best surreal films often drifting into absurdity, and vice versa.

Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths, Alejandro Iñárritu’s new profoundly personal, grand experiment, is one example. But what sets this film apart from many of its predecessors is its ability to stay grounded in reality and produce, despite its occasional narrative drift and 159-minute runtime, one of the strongest emotional punches of this cinematic year.

Its title notwithstanding, Bardo is anything but false, at least once you figure out what the heck is happening. Sharing any clues here would be almost as absurd as the film itself, so I’ll say simply that this is the story of Silverio (Daniel Giménez-Cacho), a Mexican-American journalist and filmmaker living in Los Angeles who, with his wife (Griselda Siciliani) and teenage son (Iker Sanchez Solano), returns to his home country to receive a prestigious award and reconnect with old friends. But this is less a geographic journey than a spiritual one, peppered with reminiscences, ghosts, dreams, waking visions, graphically sexual imaginings and scenes from Silverio’s latest movie, which shares its title with Iñárritu’s film, making this one of the most imaginative and twisty films within a film in recent memory.

Iñárritu’s hands are all over Bardo, from the writing (with Nicolas Giacobone), directing, producing, editing, to even co-composing the music. Yet two of the things he allowed others to do, cinematography (Darius Khondji) and production design/art direction (Eugenio Caballero/Carlos Jacques), are the film’s strongest suits. In fact, they are the best of any film I’ve seen this year. And it’s the combination of all these elements that makes Bardo the most visionary and arguably the best non-English-language film of 2022. It’s also the most challenging and occasionally self-indulgent, as many critics have mentioned. But this critic was happy to indulge.

In Buddhism, bardo is a transitional state between death and rebirth: a flight into existentialism, if you will. This isn’t the first time Iñárritu has taken wing. He did it with Birdman and, in the process, swooped down on an Oscar. Though Bardo isn’t not nearly as accessible to mainstream audiences as Birdman, if you’re a patient and visually oriented filmgoer, you’ll adore the flight. Buckle up.

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For more information about this movie, visit IMDB and Wikipedia.