As far as movies about fat, opaque, dull-witted men with menial jobs in alienated cities who eventually turn to crime and suicide, I suppose I liked this better than Crimson Gold, and as far as movies with extended blowjob scenes, I suppose I liked this better than The Brown Bunny. But that’s not to say I liked this all that much. Certainly not in my top films of the decade there, Sight & Sound, but I suppose important critics give bonus points to stuff that can “willfully sabotage narrative tension and dynamism,” while I enjoy movies with more, I don’t know, narrative tension and dynamism?
Opens with some very nice string music as the camera slowly reveals a girl giving a blowjob, and it looks like video but I can’t tell if that’s just the DVD transfer. Marcos the giant chauffeur picks up Ana the general’s daughter and escorts her to the “boutique” where she is secretly a high-class prostitute. They have awkward sex (her on top him being perfectly still, she jokingly says “calm down Marcos”) while the camera wanders off out the window, slowly takes in the whole courtyard area around the building before returning to the couple. I suppose that sabotaged narrative tension, and it was actually one of my favorite moments so maybe I like that sort of thing.
Half an hour into the movie, Marcos quietly tells her “the thing is, my wife and I kidnapped a baby, and he died this morning.” Later at home his wife curses him out, saying the girl will talk to the police. So Marcos watches some soccer, takes a family trip (with the family whose baby he kidnapped – talk about awkward), then visits Ana and kills her with a big knife. If he hadn’t planned how to kill her without being caught, and he spoke of turning himself into the police anyway, I can’t see why killing Ana is a good idea except maybe to relieve some sort of sexual tension. Sight & Sound doesn’t know either, admitting the film is “riddled with enigmas.”
An uncharacteristic shot:
Music at weird times – sweeping strings at the gas station, drum and horns after the sex scene. Sounds start to disappear. We see huge bells being rung in the rain, and we hear the rain but not the bells. There’s some religious business at the end, as Marcos wears a hood and shuffles into a church on his knees, to presumably die from blood loss at some time before the police enter the building.
Director in interview: “Some people even think that I’m obsessed with awkward sex or fat people.” Says he wants to create the film more through the editing than camerawork… I assume from what little I’ve heard about them that Japon and Silent Light are vice-versa.
With his 2005 flamethrower Battle in Heaven he connects our discomfort viewing graphic sex to a daring critique of a country’s complicity in a man’s frustrated social situation. Reygadas provokes—calmly, not thuggishly—our contempt for his film’s radical aesthetic patterns and explicit sexual nature, suggesting our anxiety with the text’s essential unconventionality is tantamount to racism, bodyism, and anti-artism.