Journey to the end of the world
A trek to a remote Mexican town leads a suicidal man into a lush and strange reality in "Japón."
By MARIANA CARREĖO KING
A limping, anonymous, middle-aged man decides to go to a remote village to end his life. To get there, he has to hitchhike a ride with a family of hunters (in this scene, following the Hitchcock tradition, director/producer/writer Carlos Reygadas appears briefly), spend the night in a nearby town where he awakens with the sounds of a pig being slaughtered, and painfully hike down a remarkably steep canyon. Once there he is greeted by the "official representative of the people," who sends him to lodge with an old woman at the outskirts of town.
"Japón," Carlos Reygadas' debut feature film, has nothing to do with Japan or Asia as its title would suggest (it takes place in a small village in the Mexican state of Hidalgo, north of Mexico City). The title comes from the rising-sun symbol associated with Japan. Not that you would learn this by watching the movie. It may seem a bit odd, but then again it worked for Terry Gilliam's "Brazil."
|Written and directed by: Carlos Reygadas.|
Cast: Alejandro Ferretis, Magdalena Flores, Yolanda Villa, Martín Serrano, Rolando Hernández, Bernabe Pérez, Fernando Benítez.
Cinematography: Diego Martínez Vignatti.
Sound by: Gilles Laurent
In Spanish with English subtitles.
Once The Man (Alejandro Ferretis) has settled in with Ascen, the old woman (Magdalena Flores), his journey takes unexpected turns, especially when Ascen's relatives cheat her out of some of her property. But his journey, as everything else in this movie is never clearly defined. Rather, "Japón" is a profound, if not always realized, meditation on life, death and redemption.
The cast of non-actors is impressive. Alejandro Ferretis, as The Man, plays his character with a simplicity that many trained actors would envy; but particularly fascinating is Magdalena Flores as Ascen, the centenarian devout lady who lets The Man stay with her. Her physicality and sincere awkwardness make you watch her every move and, what's more, actually care for her something that Mr. Ferretis' character doesn't quite accomplish.|
Beautifully shot, "Japón" is not a narrative-driven film: the characters are purposely vague and their actions a bit incongruous at times. Furthermore, its long silences and slow tempo might frustrate some viewers. But shot in 16mm cinemascope and then blown to 35mm, the film's juxtaposition of carefully chosen sounds and music and panoramic images is a magnificent feast to the senses.
|MARCH 19, 2003|
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