Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Japón (Japan)

This first feature by Carlos Reygadas is all about images and sounds and less about a story, that definitively you do not miss that much as you are absolutely hypnotized and mesmerized by the combination of images and sounds. There are not many movies that can be described as Visual Poetry, this is one of them with the plus that the soundtrack is also essential part of the poetry.

Most of the movie I was wondering how Reygadas did those outstanding takes of Mexico’s countryside. To me they looked so surrealistic, like those photos that come from painted or treated negatives. If it wasn’t because the DVD comes with a feauterette I would have had to do hard research, but thanks to Reygadas explanation I understand that the main effect comes from shooting in 16mm and then transferring to 35mm, besides the spectacular use of light that I will comment next.

This is a movie that uses total presence of light, total absence of light and everything in-between. You have here long dark screens, long white screens, all sorts of chiaro-oscuro and many light overexposures. The results are breathtaking scenes outstandingly framed to convey feelings. Then you have exquisite music soundtrack that not only complements the visuals but also becomes part of it. When there is no music, you have sounds that do exactly the same and if it was not enough, you have silences that also do the same. Outstanding!!

Is hard for me to believe that this is Reygadas first feature film as is quite exquisite, very European alike with some influences that I believe also come from eastern cimena and he express them with the extremely slow pace, extremely long shots and more than enough time to see not only details but to divagate into your own thoughts.

I’ve been writing all this without reading anything about the movie, now I’ll stop and read. Not much to say except that if I believe in Reygadas own words, the movie was not shot in Super 16mm nor in Cinemascope, it was plain 16mm with anaphormic lenses. I’m so glad I saw the featurette!

Well, the movie is set in the Mexico's State of Hidalgo in a small village near a ravine and the simple story told with very few dialogues and mostly actors expressions is about a city man that decides to go to this isolated place to kill himself. All actors are non-professionals and perform quite realistic, which allows me to mention that this movie is cinema verité.

Most critics and viewers after seeing the movie question why is called Japan and I have to say I did it too. According to Reygadas he didn’t want to have name for this movie and wanted to call it “Untitled” like many paintings, but he realized that it will became a pretentious name. So thinking about eastern cinema techniques he realized that in the movie there were many images, long silences, respect to everything that surrounds, etc and thought about calling it Taiwan, Korea or Japan. Eventually Japan stayed. After all he did the same as Brazil the movie , that has nothing to do with the country.

As you can realize by now I’m really impressed with the work of this Mexican director and now more than ever I need to see his latest film Silent Light. I could go on writing about this movie, but everything else I have to say relates to outstanding technical aspects of the movie that most people do not like to read and the director’s influences and inspiration, so I’ll stop.

The movie has 16 wins and 8 nominations in awards and festivals around the world. Among the incredible achievement of so many wins for a first feature director he won the Camera D’Or at the 2002 Cannes.

Absolutely not for all audiences as this is really an art movie with images and sounds telling a story, more than characters telling a story. Perhaps if you are familiar with Andrei Tarkovsky films then you will totally enjoy this movie. Me, I just loved this outstanding visual and sound experience.


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