Asger is a bad cop – we don’t know this yet, but can assume from context – forced, along with his supervisor, to a desk job working emergency phones until a little matter gets cleared up. He catches a kidnapping case (which nobody else on the overnight shift seems as excited about) and does a bunch of things wrong (some also illegal) trying in earnest to help the woman caller who has been abducted by her ex husband, leaving their two kids home alone.

The whole movie is confined to a call center, the second half in a private room after Asger decides he doesn’t want coworkers listening in, so it’s a one-man show with little visual flair. Asger eventually discovers she’s being taken to a psych hospital because she just stabbed one of their children to death, but she escapes and is gonna jump off a bridge, and it’s his fault, so he monologues about his own crime, essentially confessing to murder in front of a bunch of cops. Mostly I bought the kidnapping twists, but I’m not sure about this ending.

Won the audience award at Sundance last year in the world drama competition along with Pity, Rust, and a bunch I still haven’t heard anything about. This is Möller’s feature debut, after a short which was also about a woman in a psych hospital. The movie is Danish, but Asger is Swede Jakob Cedergren. The day after watching, I learned about the Jodie Foster remake starring Jake Gyllenhaal.

A Danish engineer (Viggo Mortensen) and his teen daughter Ingeborg are in 1880’s Argentina. The locals spread rumors about Zuluaga, a savage desert killer with supernatural powers. Ingeborg runs off with young soldier Corto, Viggo gives chase and finds Corto has been killed. Now he seeks to rescue his daughter from Zuluaga.

Whaaaat that sky:

Sounds like a fine Western, but this is one unusual and beautiful movie. Picture is windowboxed with rounded corners, and the colors are extremely vivid (I think blues or greens were boosted), shot by Kaurismaki’s DP Timo Salminen. The story moves slowly when it moves at all, but the film isn’t its story – it’s more a moving postcard of a barely understood past.

Viggo is injured, his gun and horse stolen, and continues on foot armed with his sword. A dog leads him up a mountain (“what a shit country,” he complains of the rocky ascent) to a cave inhabited by a woman (Ghita Norby, narrator of Babette’s Feast) who may be his daughter many years older.

Cave Woman:

Young Ingeborg wakes up in a massive house in modern-day Denmark, is told by a guy in the yard that her dad’s out, and her dogs are developing nervous rashes because she leaves them alone for so long. Then a shot of sea lions on the rocks of Argentina.

Future Ingeborg:

Viggo also made an Albert Camus movie last year, is clearly in a different headspace these days than during his Lord of the Rings and David Cronenberg eras. Ingeborg’s parents are actors, both on Borgen and The Killing.

Quintin in Cinema Scope:

Needless to say, [the ending] turns the entire film upside down, in an even more radical way than the original last scene from La Libertad, where Misael laughs with the film crew and the whole ethnological dispositif is erased, revealing the entire enterprise as only a film with an actor, as artificial as any other film (perhaps more artificial, in fact). That scene, however, isn’t in the final cut of the film: it was edited out under pressure from Cannes, who requested its removal as a condition to program the film in Un Certain Regard. Thirteen years later, Alonso—whose films have always screened in Cannes, but never in the Competition—was able to retain his intended ending for Jauja, though once again there was pressure from the festival to remove it. Cannes, like many major festivals, prefers to screen films where content and style are clear, distinguishable, uniform, rather than deal with a film where not even the filmmaker knows what exactly is going on. And Alonso is one of those few filmmakers—I can only think of Kiarostami or Monte Hellman as other examples—who understand cinema as the sole medium where there’s no real divide between true and false, dream and reality, film and filmmaking.

I haven’t read all the articles online, but it looks like this was rapturously received by my favorite critics back in March. Won a prize at Cannes, too.

Viggo with Lt. Pittaluga

Alonso:

In the beginning, it was a little bit linear but then after the girl disappeared … the film breaks itself a little bit and starts to have distortions in time, space, and reality. I mean, there’s no way to keep on in the film after he realizes that he’s not going to see the girl again. He has no horse, and he has not even a hat to protect him from the sun. He’s a man in a desert, and he loses all that he has, his daughter.

A. Martin:

Ingeborg speaks of her desire to own a dog – one that will follow her everywhere, that will live only for her. And what does Dinesen become, 30 minutes into the film, but precisely that, abandoning his mission in a heartbeat and blindly following her every trace … Alonso takes Jauja more in the direction of Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s films, or Miguel Gomes’s celebrated Tabu – a type of cinema in which the materiality of landscapes and political histories is melded with the magical, transformative elements of fairytale and myth.

B. Ebiri: “Alonso has a lot on his mind, but he’s interested in casting a spell more than sending a message, in texture, sound, and image more than narrative.”

Alonso again:

We composed the film in 1.85:1, which is more panoramic, a little bit more modern. But then, when I asked for the transfer from the lab, I just asked them to give me a full frame, and I started editing in 4:3 … I was thinking that if I go with a more ’scope film, people maybe would get the wrong idea about Viggo, the swords, and the horse, and they’ll look more for action. Is he going to kill the Indians? And that is not the film. So if I put it in an old frame, they will start seeing the film another way, not waiting for more action. It’s a better perspective to have.

Funny, that’s the opposite of what Serra did with Story of My Death, shooting 4:3 then reframing in ‘scope.

Zuluaga in Jauja:

Zuluaga in Letter for Serra:

Alonso is one of Cinema Scope’s 50 Under 50 – a quest I’d put on the back burner, then considered abandoning after suffering through Story of My Death this summer. Serra came to mind while watching Jauja, and probably not coincidentally, the two filmmakers know each other, and I’ve found an hour-long 2008 discussion between the two of them. Serra seems more lively and interesting than his films do. Alonso on the difficulty of creating a film: “Perhaps the scene in question was easy to film … the difficult thing is putting one shot after another and adding sound and creating an atmosphere around it.” Serra is focused on Honor de Cavalleria, Alonso on his “Lonely Men Trilogy” of La Libertad, Los Muertos and Liverpool. I abandoned the interview after a half hour and watched something else: there was a 2011 project called Correspondences where filmmakers made video “letters” to each other, and Alonso and Serra participated. Skipping Serra’s section for now because it’s two and a half hours long.

Letter for Serra (2011)

Long takes, just a few shots in 20+ minutes. Among tall grasses and twisted trees, we follow a nervous rifleman taking a shot in the woods. Then an axe man walking with his dogs. We watch the dogs in the woods, then a narrator takes out some notes and tells the story of the axe man Zuluaga – a backstory for Jauja, it would seem.

Lovely natural-light drama spanning many years in the lives of two puritanical Danish sisters. Muchache Man Lorens loved one of them, and the following year a French singer loved the other, but the sisters end up with only each other – and French cook Babette (played by the great Stephane Audran of so many Chabrol films).

sister Filippa and Mr. Papin the opera singer:

sister Martine and Lorenz:

Eventually it’s revealed that Babette was head chef at a world-class French restaurant, and after preparing the sisters’ very simple meals for thirty years, she spends her lottery winnings on one extravagant dinner for the sisters and their church friends (including a visiting Mustache Man Lorens).

Katy and I liked it. We watched on Valentine’s Day, coincidentally the week director Gabriel Axel died, and during the first earthquake I’ve felt while living in Atlanta. Adapted from a Karen Blixen story. IMDB claims it’s the current pope’s favorite movie.

M. Le Fanu:

We can agree, at any rate, that Audran’s performance is serene and authoritative. Could the woman she is playing have been based on a once living person? At bottom, one never really knows where stories come from, especially the good ones. Dinesen’s story has an absolute “rightness” about it that we recognize from classical fairy tales. Its tone, its humor, its kindness, its flashes of sardonic wit, the ease and confidence of its storytelling—all these attributes seem, at times, self-perpetuating, and independent of mere human agency. It is as if the best stories, miraculously, write themselves. Axel’s film manages to capture this anonymous and folklorish quality. Faithful to the story, he has made grace visible, and given us, in addition, a wonderful lesson in courtesy.

Kind of a good movie. Directed by a Danish woman from the Dogma movement who is about to make a movie based on a Low album.

Our man Jacob (I like to call him Mads) was a wreck, cheating on his girlfriend and leaving her in India then dedicating the rest of his life to helping orphans (so: a Good Man). All his ventures fail so he needs funding. Enter rich, dying Jorgen, married to Mads’s ex, who has three kids. Eldest is actually Mads’s and the twins are Jorgen’s. Jorgen, also a Good Man, wants someone to take over for him after he dies, love his wife and kids for him, so he tricks Mads into coming to Denmark by funding his Indian thing. Mads stays, leaving his Indian kids behind, a happy ending for all.

Of course all of this is gradually revealed, not laid out neatly in order, but as soon as Mads shows up at the eldest daughter’s wedding and shares a look with Jorgen’s wife, we (I?) know the daughter is his.

Shot grainy and handheld. Good story, acting, etc… nothing wrong here. Most interesting how movie stays tense with no “bad guy”, all buncha decent people. I guess the daughter’s new husband turns out to be a shit… that details after the Indian intro brought back The Namesake a little.

IMDB reviewer says “I haven’t been this moved since I saw I Am Sam and that’s saying something!”

Completely unhinged Danish animated movie… yes, two Danish movies premiering in one week, something like 15% of all the Danish movies I’ve ever seen. Very calm intro, lead guy walking around the neighborhood, slow and simple, than roooar into the opening credits. Love it. Rest of the movie sticks mostly to the roar side of things, with some truly audacious scenes.

August moves in with sister Christina, but boyfriend Charlie spends a lot of time there too. After an eviction threat, they plot to blackmail the landlord to let them stay, so August, always with his video camera, tapes his underage sister having sex with the landlord, and voila. This might be what leads August to piss off and become a missionary priest for a few years.

Comes back, sister has just died, her little daughter Mia is staying at a whorehouse, and Charlie runs a media empire selling Christina’s body on video and magazines. Only bloody revenge can ensue! August blasts his way to the top with Mia in tow. Weird ending though… go to a huge party at C’s house, but C doesn’t even seem to be home. A has hidden a bomb in M’s doll, M runs inside with it, A runs after her, boom.