Guillermo del Toro Defends ‘Bardo’ Against Audiences Confused by Plot

“The movie is undeniably one of the most powerful things I’ve seen in terms of cinema,” del Toro said of his friend Alejandro González Iñárritu’s film.

Alejandro González Iñárritu’s “Bardo” has proven one of the most divisive films of the year, drawing mixed reactions out of Venice before finally arriving in theaters earlier this month — and 22 minutes shorter than its initial version. The sprawling, deeply personal tale of a journalist and filmmaker (Daniel Giménez Cacho) who returns to his native Mexico City after decades in the US has alienated some critics and audiences for its hedonistic, freewheeling style. Is it profound or pretentious?

“Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths” certainly has one fan in fellow Mexican director (and one of the Three Amigos, also comprising Iñárritu and Alfonso Cuarón) Guillermo del Toro. The “Pan’s Labyrinth” and “Pinocchio” director moderated an onstage Q&A for “Bardo” at Los Angeles’ Academy Museum on Friday, joined by the likes of Iñárritu and others from the cast and crew. During his opening remarks, del Toro made his feelings about the movie clear — as well as his distrust of anyone who dismisses the movie for seeming convoluted or confusing or pretentious.

“The movie is undeniably one of the most powerful things I’ve seen in terms of cinema, pure cinema,” del Toro said in his introduction. “To anyone who is confused about the plot and what it is about, my condolences. The fact is the movie’s called ‘Bardo,’ which means limbo, and it starts with a guy who tries to fly but the path weighs him down, and ends with him finally flying, and they don’t fucking get it? I’m amazed.”

He continued, “What is very hard to explain is that everybody here, everybody on the screens, it’s extremely hard to explain how one of the aspects that has been the least [talked-about] of this movie is the cinema of it, and I find it absolutely flabbergasting. Seeing a Van Gogh and asking for an opinion, and the opinion is, ‘Well, it’s about some flowers in a pot.’ The flowers are OK, the pot is nice, but nobody talks about the brushstrokes, the colors, the thickness of the paint, the color palette. It’s amazing to me. Everybody here did an incredible job at what they did. Every single shot and every single thing is one of the highest states, and the hardest thing to pull off, in cinema. Almost every shot.”

Iñárritu told his friend, “You should write the review.”

Read IndieWire’s interview with Iñárritu here. “Bardo” is currently in theaters before arriving on Netflix December 16.

Eric Kohn contributed reporting.

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