Throughout the film’s warranted nearly-three-hour runtime, Iñárritu writes the cinematic verses of an oneiric love poem to an ever-incongruous homeland while simultaneously investigating his own perceived hubris, insecurities and fractured identity.
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With “Bardo,” Iñárritu delivers a cartoonishly indulgent film about the fact that he makes cartoonishly indulgent films — a rootless epic about a rootless man who’s been unmoored by his own self-doubt.
Audiences’ staying power for this meandering existential exploration of personal, professional and national identity — as tragicomic as it is rueful — will vary, depending on their interest in the artist or their appetite for the film’s aesthetic beauty.
For all of the visual treats on display and for the moving moments that are better left unspoiled, nobody thought to withhold this director’s greater indulgences. And that is a shame — because when ‘Bardo’ hits the softer note it strives for, it’s really something to behold.
Though ambitious and visually stunning (gorgeous cracked deserts, beautiful beaches, houses filled with sand), it’s willfully elusive and unwieldy to the point of frustrating.
Whether talking to himself or talking at his audience as if delivering wisdom deserving of an inscription on stone tablets, Iñárritu has nothing new or interesting to say. He's established he can move a camera with astonishing fluidity as well as blur fantasy and reality seamlessly. Now what? "Bardo" is a film high on its own supply yet low on any sense of actual intrigue or intuition.
So why is “Bardo,” for all its skill, reach-for-the-stars aspiration, and majestic sweep, such a windy, confounding, and — okay, I’ll just say it — monotonous experience? The movie is full of good things, but it’s three hours long and mostly it’s full of itself.
It is made with real panache – so much panache, in fact, that you can forgive much of the film’s outrageous narcissism. Iñárritu could, if he chose, tell us an equally painful but less grandiose and auto-mythic story about his own life – but he has exercised his prerogative as an artist and given us this confection instead. It is certainly spectacular.
Iñárritu has a lot on his mind here, weighing the sins and graces of personal and public history, and attempting to atone for some of it. But as Bardo stretches on and on and on, the film narrows into something solipsistic and meta.
Iñárritu has cooked up a personal epic of the most exhaustingly swaggery type, man-spread across three hours of screen time during which flashes of genuine, startling brilliance occasionally manage to push their way through the strenuously zany macho-visionary fug.