Alejandro González Iñárritu on Re-Cutting ‘Bardo’ Into a ‘Tightened’ Film and Why Some Modern Cinema ‘Lacks Soul’

Alejandro González Iñárritu has bemoaned modern cinema’s prioritization of style over substance.

Taking to the stage in London for a wide-ranging discussion about his career so far, the two-time best director Oscar winner said: “I don’t care about the quality of things. When I see young filmmakers, I’m very connected to the way they express themselves. Nowadays, a lot of things look beautiful but there’s a lack of soul.”

The filmmaker expressed that audience expectations have shifted, too, saying he believes it is unlikely his “demanding” 2003 film “21 Grams” could be made today. “I don’t know if we could have made that film today,” he said, “because audiences would be very irritated by it. People need to be fed by the hand so much more [than they did].”

Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths” is the director’s first film since his Leonardo DiCaprio-starring “The Revenant” in 2015. This movie, his eighth, also marks a return to his Mexican homeland since his debut movie “Amores Perros.”

An existential movie, “Bardo” places familial relationships, cultural identity, and an artist’s career under the microscope. Evocative of Fellini’s “8½,” Iñárritu uses surreal excursions to smudge narrative convention, using the absurd as a tool for light relief against a weighty central theme.

Greeted by mixed reviews at its Venice premiere (later mirrored at Telluride), the director has since returned to the editing suite and trimmed it by 22 minutes. In a previous interview with IndieWire, Iñárritu explained that witnessing the film with an audience provided fresh perspective – some scenes were cropped, another inserted, and some rearranged. He believes the result is a “tightened” film.

“I put everything that I have into ‘Bardo,’” he revealed in London. “I have nothing more to give at this moment. I gave everything: in terms of heart, in terms of soul, in terms of attention.” He continued: “I didn’t want to make [‘Bardo’], I needed to make it.”

Iñárritu also discussed how he had become “tired” of his trademark multi-narrative approach by the time of 2010’s “Biutiful” and needed to change gears. “I was a little tired of the multi-structure,” he said. “I wanted to see how it felt to make a film about one person. I didn’t know if I’d be able to do it. It was scary to sustain one line of narrative.”

Elsewhere, Iñárritu recalled the “electric experience” of making 2015 Oscar winner “Birdman”. “I had never laughed on a set. I was ruining scenes because I was laughing so much.” He joked: “I was shooting a [movie] and enjoying it, which had never happened to me.”

Iñárritu also spoke warmly of his longstanding friendship with Guillermo del Toro, which dates back to the making of “Amores Perros.” The director recounted how they got into a hot debate over the triptych set-up, with del Toro arguing that the second story should be axed altogether. A three-day home visit by the young filmmaker’s mentor followed, where the pair reviewed Iñárritu’s edit. The latter’s vision remained, albeit with minor tweaks under del Toro’s steering hand.

“Bardo” plays as a Headline Gala at the London Film Festival. It will be released in theaters on Nov. 18 and on Netflix on Dec. 16.

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