Led by Penn, ’21 Grams’ weighs in at the Academy Screenings | AspenTimes.com

Led by Penn, ’21 Grams’ weighs in at the Academy Screenings

Stewart Oksenhorn
Aspen Times Staff Writer

If you have seen “Amores Perros” ” and have a stomach for a high level of violence of the nongratuitous variety ” you are likely in a fever state over the prospects for “21 Grams.”

“21 Grams,” the second film from the “Amores Perros” team of director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga Jordan, shows tonight at 7:45 at Harris Hall, as part of Aspen Filmfest’s Academy Screenings. Also showing tonight, at 5:30, is the animated French feature “The Triplets of Belleville.”

One need not be a fan of “Amores Perros” to look forward to “21 Grams.” The cast is headed by Sean Penn, already an Oscar front-runner for his performance in “Mystic River.” Joining Penn are Benicio Del Toro and Naomi Watts.

The film has earned its share of raves. Elvis Mitchell of The New York Times named it the second-best film of the year. (Mitchell felt so strongly about “21 Grams” that, when his New York Times colleague A.O. Scott called the film irritating in a recent story, Mitchell said such comment was “fightin’ words.”)

Those who have seen “Amores Perros,” a 2000 Spanish-language film from Mexico, have some sense of what “21 Grams” might consist of. “Amores Perros” ” which translates loosely to “Love is a bitch” ” was a brutal, exhilarating film about violence, happenstance, pain ” and dogs. Similar to “Pulp Fiction” in structure and its use of coincidence and violence, “Amores Perros” was not tempered by humor and dialogue in the way “Pulp Fiction” was.

Inarritu and Jordan appear to be working with recognizable ideas in “21 Grams.” The title refers to the weight a person supposedly loses at the instant of death. As in their earlier film, the plot centers around a freak accident which brings several parties together: an ailing mathematician (Penn), a grieving mother (Watts) and a born-again former criminal (Del Toro). As their lives intersect, the three are confronted with the truths about love, faith and redemption in a story that reveals its own truths bit by bit.

Being a huge fan of “Amores Perros” ” and almost anything else that reeks with this much darkness and despair ” I can’t wait to see “21 Grams.”

‘The Triplets of Belleville’

“The Triplets of Belleville” appears to be a thoroughly unique work; its trailer claims that the animated film is a far cry from either Disney or Japanese anime. The film, a scattered dark comedy that follows a cyclist in training, features music, sound and dance ” and almost no dialogue.

Roger Ebert, in a three-and-a-half star review, claims that “The Triplets of Belleville,” written and directed by Sylvain Chomet, “will have you walking out of the theater with a goofy damn grin on your face, wondering what just happened to you.” The film also allowed New York Times critics Mitchell and Scott to agree on something. Both had “The Triplets of Belleville” on their top 10 lists.

[Aspen Filmfest’s Academy Screenings run through Jan. 2, with daily screenings at Harris Hall. For a full schedule, go to http://www.aspenfilm.org]

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