Who's In It: Javier Bardem, Maricel Alvarez
The Basics: Javier Bardem lives in the dank underworld of Barcelona. He's divorced from a woman with bipolar disorder and struggles to feed his two children while closely monitoring their contact with the unstable mom. He works in black market everything, most notably the trafficking of illegal Chinese workers into sweatshops where they sleep in freezing basements on the floor. Also, he happens to be dying of a make-you-urinate-blood disease. And when you spend two and a half hours wallowing in the cesspool of this guy's life, you'll wonder if death won't be the best thing that's happened to him in a long while.
What's The Deal: For a blippy moment in his early filmmaking career, Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu--he of Amores Perros and Babel--investigated the flipside of happiness with a kind of energy and momentum and humanity that suggested he had something new to tell you about it. And then, somewhere along the way, it seemed like he decided that human suffering was its own reward. That's not always a bad idea. In fact, I'm often a big fan of movies where no one gets out alive/well/content/full-of-pie/etc. But there needs to be a reason for it somewhere along the way, and if there is one in this film it's been accidentally suffocated like a toddler with a dry cleaning bag.
Barcelona By Day Is Also Barcelona By Night: I've never been to Barcelona. And while I'm sure it can't all be as exuberantly colorful as Pedro Almodovar's movies would suggest, with everyone lounging around alongside their vibrant transgendered friends on zippy orange pleather couches, I can't figure it's a nonstop dodge of puke puddles on the sidewalk either, relentlessly cold, grim, greasy and gray. Now, obviously, movies are essentially really well-told lies. But if I have to believe in one, I think I'm going to go with the orange couch.
He's Been In Sorrow's Kitchen and Licked Out All The Pots: Bardem is great. There's a good reason he's nominated for Best Actor right now for a film that few people have seen. He delivers a performance that's comparable to Emily Watson's in Breaking The Waves (minus the existence of a meddling deity), and he really seems like he's living a life of 100% agony from sun-up to sundown. You will respect his abilities if you make it all the way through to the bitter end. But you won't want to watch him do it twice.
Bottom Line: It'sThe Human Centipede for people who think they're too fancy for The Human Centipede.