To be honest, I tried to sit through Babel again for this screening, and I just couldn’t make myself do it. I do not deny that it’s a wonderfully well made film, though I will say that over the years its screenplay has — like Iñárritu in general — soured on me. Too much of the film seems predicated on unlikable people doing consistently stupid things just to keep the story going. It’s easy to be distracted on this point on a first look, when your concern lies more in the scope of the film and the complexity of the way the stories connect. In that regard, though, what you end up with is a first class vehicle bearing a load of tiresome third class passengers.
Now, I’d liked Iñárritu’s Amores Perros (2000) and admired 21 Grams (2003), but Babel was, I think, just one bout of miserablism too many — and if it wasn’t, the relentlessly downbeat and physically ugly Biutiful (2010) sealed the deal. While all of these films are technically very fine, there are only so many times I care to be subjected to a worldview that seems to come down to a “life is a bottomless pit filled with snake turds” line of thought. Iñárritu more and more comes across like a more stylish Mexican version of Michael Haneke. I realize that all this grimness is catnip to viewers who insist that a film is better if it’s a thoroughly depressing slog. I am just not one of that group. (None of this, by the way, keeps me from being very excited by the prospect of Iñárritu’s new film Birdman.)
Classic World Cinema by Courtyard Gallery will present Babel Friday, Oct. 10, at 8 p.m. at Phil Mechanic Studios, 109 Roberts St., River Arts District (upstairs in the Railroad Library). Info: 273-3332, www.ashevillecourtyard.com