‘Babel’ Premiers at Smith Opera House

Babel,” the recent Golden Globe winner for Best Drama, will screen at 7 p.m. January 19, 22, and 23, and at 2 p.m. on January 21 at the Smith Opera House, 82 Seneca Street.”Babel” may be the most ambitious movie of the year, tackling towering communication barriers, global politics and cultural divides in a structurally complex and fascinating narrative.Compelling from the first frame, the movie’s harrowing intertwining tales grab us and do not let go until a closing credit reveals that the film is dedicated to director Alejandro Iñárritu’s children. It is the perfect coda, as each character finds a measure of peace and solace through the bonds of family.Inarritu’s movies — “Amores Perros,” “21 Grams” and now “Babel” — deal with a fragmented but interconnected world. He assembles a mural from jagged, uncompromising pieces of narrative and finds a disturbing beauty in the resultant view.Working with writer Guillermo Arriaga, Inarritu, who won the best-director prize at Cannes for “Babel,” attempts the near impossible: to present a comprehensive, telling picture of current reality. He’s looking for a cinema that speaks to our present fractured moment, capturing both its chaos and its possibilities.As has been the case with all of Inarritu’s movies, “Babel” wraps itself around a variety of story lines, making room for moments of nearly unbearable intensity. True to its title, “Babel” hinges on missed and faulty communications of both the personal and the cultural variety. It’s a sweeping movie about characters who often suffer from tunnel vision.Inarritu’s globe-hopping takes us to Morocco, Japan, the United States and Mexico, slowly revealing how each of the tales connects.Inarritu’s amazing ability to couple images and sound creates an intensity that can overpower our ability to think. When a boy fires a shot in the mountains of Morocco, the event that ostensibly lights the movie’s narrative fuse, we don’t just hear the shot, we feel it. The sound pierces the armor of our defenses as it echoes across the barren Moroccan landscape.To understand how this rifle shot connects with the upscale lives of a San Diego couple (Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett) or how it links to the story of a Japanese father (Koji Yakusho) and his rebellious deaf daughter (Rinko Kikuchi) or why it ripples through the story of a Mexican nanny (Adriana Barraza) and her wildly irresponsible nephew (Gael Garcia Bernal), you’ll have to see the movie.Know, though, that whether Inarritu is manipulating sound (a throbbing scene in a Tokyo nightclub) or heightening tension (a conflict among passengers on a tourist bus in Morocco), he continually expresses his preference for supercharged drama.He raises the cinematic temperature, perhaps in hopes that a kind of truth will be glimpsed through the fire. It’s not so much that he wants to tell us that people are connected in strange ways as that he wants us to feel the power of such a simple assertion with its potential for joy, suffering and profound shifts in a life’s direction.Pitt, raw and emotionally bruised, gives his most mature and moving performance to date. Blanchett, who’s wounded and on her back through most of the movie, seems incapable of hitting a false note. And as a deaf girl dealing with her emerging sexuality, as well as with guilt and sorrow, Kikuchi is an absolute wonder.Each of the stories in Inarritu’s sprawling movie becomes part of an expansive fabric. In a world where even extraordinary events can quickly be reduced to banality, Inarritu tries to shake off the numbness. He evidently wants us to feel every minute of his movie.This is a serious movie overflowing with memorable acting, unforgettable images, searing tragedy, unexpected humor and an eloquent plea for international understanding.With a running time of two hours, 24 minutes, this ambitious and absorbing epic is rated R. It is in English, Spanish, French, Japanese, Berber and Arabic, with subtitles. Tickets are $5 general admission and $3 for students and senior citizens.Call 315-781-LIVE (5483) or toll-free 866-355-LIVE (5483) for details or to order tickets. Tickets may also be purchased on-line at www.TheSmith.org.The Smith Opera House is supported, in part, with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, the City of Geneva, the Town of Geneva and by contributions from individual supporters.

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