Wednesday, May 15, 2013

2013 Cannes Marathon: Japon

(Special Mention of the Camera d’Or Prize at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival)

Written and directed by Carlos Reygadas, Japon is the story of a suicidal man who leaves Mexico City to go to the country looking for serenity as he bonds with an aging widow. The film is an exploration into the world of humanity and a man’s desire to find meaning in his life in a remote canyon in Mexico just as he is reaching his bottom. Starring Alejandro Ferretis, Magdalena Flores, and Yolanda Villa. Japon is an exhilarating yet visceral film from Carlos Reygadas.

The film is a story that follows a painter (Alejandro Ferretis) who travels to a remote part of the Mexican countryside to live in a remote village to kill himself. By living with this aging widow named Ascen (Magdalena Flores), the two bond as they deal with her nephew Juan Luis (Martin Serrano) who is eager to take stones away from her farm. While this man is dealing with his own issues, he tries to help out the old widow as she tries to help him as well. It’s all part of a world in which two people connect as they’re both going through aging as well as deal with things they couldn’t understand.

Reygadas’ script isn’t very conventional nor does it have any strong plot but rather be a study into the world of humanity as this old woman offers to serve this man though he doesn’t want her to do too much. Yet, they talk as the man is friendly with the locals as he sees this very unique world that isn’t filled with complications in relation to the world of the city. Particularly as there’s children playing around and see this like a horse having sex or people getting drunk at a local bar. It’s part of the world that Reygadas is creating in his script as he doesn’t use a lot of dialogue or plot-points to tell the story.

The direction has Reygadas presented is a film that is simple in its 16mm form but the compositions that he creates are just spellbinding. He lets the location be just as important as everything else in the film including images of animals being killed along with some very chilling scenes that play to the world of death. There are things that are played out naturally but also has the camera gazing at the locations and its people to showcase the majestic images of this land. There are also some religious imagery that plays out as it relates to Ascen while the desolate landscape is more about the man and his sense of loss.

The direction is also very stylized as well as quite confrontational though there are a few moments where it can meander. Notably as it features a lot of long shots that can go on for minutes to let things just play out naturally. Still, there is something in the film’s final sequence where Reygadas’ direction is just stunning in the way he unveils this final moment that is just truly mesmerizing. Overall, Reygadas crafts a very powerful and captivating film about humanity.

Cinematographers Diego Martinez Vignatti and Thierry Tronchet do excellent work with the film‘s grainy yet beautiful cinematography to play out some of the naturalistic images of the locations. Editors Daniel Melguizo, Carlos Serrano Azcona, and David Torres do amazing work with the film‘s stylized editing with the use of jump-cuts and dissolves to help play out its sense of improvisation and drama. Production designers Elsa Diaz and Alejandro Reygadas do terrific work with the set pieces from the look of Ascen‘s home and farm to present a world that is simple. The sound work of Gilles Laurent and Ramon Moreira do brilliant work with the sound with the atmosphere created in the locations to give something that is naturalistic. The film’s soundtrack consists largely of classical music from Johann Sebastian Bach, Avro Part, and Dmitri Shostakovich.

The film’s cast largely consists of non-actors to help play out the sense of realism as it includes some small roles from Rolando Hernandez as the local judge, Yolanda Villa as Ascen’s friend Sabina, and Martin Serrano as Ascen’s greedy nephew Juan Luis. The best performances definitely go to Magdalena Flores as Ascen and Alejandro Ferretis as the unnamed painter where the two bring out a sense of realism to their performance that isn’t overly dramatic while showcasing two people dealing with an ever-changing world.

Japon is riveting film from Carlos Reygadas. The film is definitely one of the most startling debut films to ever come out while it presents a world that is truly engrossing while featuring performances that feels authentic. In the end, Japon is a remarkable film from Carlos Reygadas.

Carlos Reygadas Films: Battle in Heaven - Silent Light - Post Tenebras Lux - The Auteurs #32: Carlos Reygadas

© thevoid99 2013


Unknown said...

A fascinating debut. Reygadas is an amazing director, and with each film he keeps getting better. I still haven't seen Post Tenebras Lux, but I have a feeling I will love it.

thevoid99 said...

I had the chance to attend a screening of Post Tenebras Lux last month that included a Q&A w/ Reygadas. Man, I wanted to go but I was still reeling from pollen allergies and I didn't have access to my car at the time.

I'll definitely try and see it later in the year as Reygadas is right now in my shortlist of possible Auteurs subjects for 2014.