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Japon

Director Carlos Reygadas’s feature film debut, Jap’n (its enigmatic title is never explained) is a groundbreaking and totally new work of Mexican cinema. Not satisfied with merely conveying a message or telling a story, Reygadas wants to feel: he inspires vivid if sometimes uncomfortable sensations in the viewer, and the strange, earthy journey that he takes us on is not easily forgotten. The film follows an unnamed, middle-aged man (Alejandro Ferretis) who is tired and disillusioned with life in Mexico City. He travels to the countryside where he plans to kill himself. He meets Ascen (brilliantly played by Magdalena Flores), an old woman who lives by herself in the mountains, and takes up lodging with her. They begin an intense relationship which is beautifully and sensitively explored.
Ascen is uneducated but she has a profound understanding of life’s problems. Her ability to transcend them is far superior to that of the intellectual Ferretis; her limitless generosity and willingness to give of herself without expecting anything in return helps to restore his faith in humanity. Not one of the actors is a trained professional, yet Reygadas manages to draw incredible performances from his leads, often in very tense and difficult scenes.
Shot in 16mm Cinemascope without artificial light, the film is strikingly beautiful, its long, slow takes of the arid Mexican countryside the perfect backdrop for its visceral story. Reygadas dares to tackle huge themes like life, death, salvation, love, sex and religion in an unconventional and powerful manner. The complexity and grandness of his vision, his fearlessness with the camera and his ability to communicate sensuously with the audience indicate that his presence in cinema will continue to be strong in the future.oDiana Sanchez.
Mexico, 2002. English subtitles. Colour. Anamorphic. Dolby digital stereo. 137 mins.

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