Read the Denby article. It is very illuminating.
His analysis of the Arriaga-Gonzalez Iñarritu oeuvre is flawless. Some golden nuggets:
• The Mexican housekeeper, having taken the children across the border, gets into trouble when returning to the United States. After that, damned if she doesn’t lose the children in the desert, at which point I lost all faith in the movie. “Life is like that,” I heard people in the audience say. Actually, a certain kind of pseudo-serious bad fiction is like that. ...“Babel” feels like the first example of a new genre—the highbrow globalist tearjerker.I actually lost faith in the movie almost from the first scene, when Brad Pitt calls the housekeeper and asks her not to go to her son's wedding because there is absolutely nobody in the whole of San Diego except her who can take care of the kids. Not a neighbor, not a friend, not a relative. GIVE ME A FUCKING BREAK.
• “L’Avventura” was an open form; it didn’t play around with time sequences, but it altered our sense of how life works. The Arriaga-Iñárritu films, for all their structural innovations, are closed, even overdetermined, forms—puzzle boxes. All the pieces are there to be put together in our heads, but the rich ambivalence of art somehow slips away...Hear, hear, Denby.
• Experience can’t be random and also structured like a cage.
• Godard once said that he wanted to make films with a beginning, a middle, and an end, but not necessarily in that order. “21 Grams” moves sideways and turns itself inside out, but in no order... But why? Since none of the characters are part of any reality that makes sense to us, we can’t say, as we did at “Amores Perros,” that a social malaise has made the normal sequencing of the story irrelevant. On the contrary, we may wonder if Iñárritu and his editor didn’t scissor the movie into fragments in order to give soap-opera dismalness the appearance of radical art.
The same suspicion of pretentious fatalism and structural willfulness shadowed my response to “Babel.”