Wednesday, April 30, 2003
Written and Directed by Carlos Reygadas
Starring Alejandro Ferretis, Magdalena Flores
Reviewed by Mil Peliculas
There's a small spoiler in here, so back off if you care.
What the hell. I mean WHAT THE HELL? This one came right out of left field, by way of under a rock. Writer/Director Carlos Reygadas may be in need of some serious couch time. Let me lay it out for you.
A depressed artist with a gimpy leg comes to a remote Mexican village in order to commit suicide. He never explains why. He finds lodging in the barn of an old woman, we're talking in the 80's at least, named Ascencia (named after the ascenion of Jesus to heaven). While there, he begins to find certain feelings return to him, instincts of survival, carnal feelings of lust, which is, for men at least, akin to survival. This is all well and good, until he decides he wants to have sex with the old lady. You know, here I am pulling an old school Mil move and driving up to the Nuart from my Long Beach Estate on a Sunday evening by myself for a little sexy movie, and I get gimpy-leg man sticking it to the 80-year-old broad. Imagine Keith Richards having intercourse with Kirk Douglas, that's what it looked like from where I was sitting. And I do mean stroked-out 80-year-old Kirk Douglas, not strapping, tan Spartacus Douglas. Okay, the artist is a little better looking than Keith Richards, he's a slightly more well-preserved Mexican Keith Richards.
Now, I liked the film, just so you know. I thought it was fairly well done given the extremely non-existent budget that they obviously had to work with. These movies are usually not meant to dazzle you, but rather they are puzzles to be fitted together, and I like those types of films just as much as the big Hollywood fare. However, I think I'm stumped as to what this one was really going for. Stay with me as I try and work it out.
There a many, many long takes of scenery, people walking around, animals dying and having sex. Kids, old people. The circle of life basically plays out in front of our eyes in a grotesque fashion. The artist comes to this village to die, and it is interesting to see the people that live in this town, and how crappy their existence is, yet they go on, and even continue to thrive, finding pleasure in simple things. It reminded me of Victor Frankl's truly inspiring book "Man's Search for Meaning," which I recommed to anyone reading this. Frankl was a Jewish Psychiatrist who survived a stint at a concentration camp. The years he spent living in enforced squalor, death and torture at the hands of the Nazi's solidified something in his mind, and that is that man will survive if he feels his life has a purpose, a meaning. This even led to his own from of therapy called "Logotherapy." Look him up if you get the chance. The reason I think Japon reminded me of Frankl is precisely the same reason, the artist has a survival instinct that kicks in. Don't expect a happy ending though, it's a trip to hell and back.
I never did figure out why it's called Japon either. It's the Spanish word for "Japan." See what I mean? It's a bit arcane, but worth checking out.
Posted by DW Smith at Wednesday, April 30, 2003