blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

Japón (2002, Carlos Reygadas)

I am so glad I didn’t see this film in the theater. From what I can tell, it was well reviewed, and I imagine my uncontrollable laughter at the end would have offended a few folks. Japón is long. It’s only 132 minutes, but you feel every one of them.

It was shot 16mm and blown-up to 2.35:1, which is at times successful, at times not. Reygadas knows how to shoot some scenes and doesn’t know how to shoot others. Imagine if Terrence Malick knew how to take pretty pictures, but not how to take pretty pictures that meant something. Reygadas also is a fairly terrible writer–a man, apparently shallow enough to want to kill himself because he limps, goes to the middle of nowhere to do it. There, he meets an old woman and decides life’s worth living–so long as she gets jiggy with him.

Japón is incredibly serious, so much so I think Reygadas is daring people to say it’s a pretentious piece of shit (Carlos, it’s a pretentious piece of shit), and he seems to keep the critics at bay. Or maybe critics are stupider than I thought (just got done reading someone making fun of Woody Allen again. An Entertainment Weekly “contributor”). Reygadas also self-indulges a lot (no, not just showing us the naked old lady and the dude playing with himself), he forces us to sit and watch the all amateur cast sit around. In one scene, one guy starts bitching about the movie crew, only to be shushed by someone.

The film was all right for a while, maybe the first forty minutes, and I was planning on a reasonably nice review about how people who aren’t Terrence Malick shouldn’t pretend to be Terrence Malick (like that George Washington nitwit). Terrence Malick can write. Carlos Reygadas cannot (neither can that GW nitwit). Either GW nitwit, actually.

Wow, this film has really put me in a bad mood. I’ve got to stop thinking Guillermo Del Toro is indicative of Mexican filmmakers.

One response to “Japón (2002, Carlos Reygadas)”

  1. The Stumpys

    My wife and I watched Japon just last evening, and we did not care for it. The camera work, probably intended to be artistic, was simply annoying. The animal cruelty that Mr. Reygadas detailed was overdone and fairly pointless, particularly the scene where the lead beheads the Dove and the scene where a barnstormer is choking the puppy. The long pauses while we are shown the floor or the ground, the interminable camera journey up the train tracks to the bloody (and very predictable) remains of poor Ascen, the inexplicable parade of the children, the wedding song….none of that meant much to us.

    There was nothing attractive, thought-provoking, or informative in this film…not for us, at least. At the conclusion, aside from relief that it was over, both of us felt a little betrayed.

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