directed by Carlos Reygadas
Mexico 2002

 

Synopsis: "A man travels to a remote Mexican canyon to prepare to take his own life. He stays with an elderly widow named "Ascen".

This film is probably better than most new releases so far this year - but I believe the world's film critics are clutching at straws if they believe Reygadas to be bringing fresh food to the table. "As miraculous as it is moving... sincerely inspirational" says David Parkinson of Empire, "An astonishingly confident debut... sheer audacity and originality" says Derek Malcolm of the Guardian. Not so say I. Coming to this film without having seen Tarkovsky would probably be quite an interesting experience. On the other hand, if you're familiar with Tarkovsky's work it's possible to see right through this transparent debut of badly lifted chops from 32 year old Mexican Reygadas. It is a film concerned more with style than substance. Shot on 16mm with a special anamorphic lens (in similar fashion to Gaspar Noe's I STAND ALONE) the film inelegantly wavers between jerky shoulder shots and Vadim Yusov-style tracking shots. Throughout the film Reygadas uses devastatingly beautiful J. S. Bach (the same piece used in Tarkovsky's THE SACRIFICE is used prominently here) to try and up the emotional level. The problem being - it all feels false. We see a man who has travelled to a remote canyon to kill himself (he announces it right away at the start to the first person he meets) - Reygadas hanging the whole film on it. The man stays with an elderly woman, they don't get on very well, they start to get on better, the man asks the (70+ year old) woman for sex, she obliges and it feels extremely gratuitous and pointless for all concerned. In the 45 minute documentary on the disc, Reygadas smugly suggests that the elderly non-professional actress shows signs of true pleasure during this scene (as if this was the crux of his achievement!) It was about here that I began to dislike Reygadas and his surface fascinations. For me, the film fatally lacked any aesthetic, emotional, or writerly rigour. From the start, I really wanted to like it but I just could not - many things jarred with me. The camerawork, internal rhythms, editing, acting didn't gel like it does in the director's stated favourite films (ORDET, Bresson, Tarkovsky, Dreyer, Kiarostami, and Ozu). Whenever I saw a flicker of cohesion, peripheral non-actors would gurn at the camera and laugh like so often happens in my least favourite Pasolini. Many will enjoy the locations and the music but I fear they may feel shortchanged afterwards. Unfortunately, Reygadas is not the master he is touted as being.

Nick Wrigley of Masters of Cinema

Posters

Theatrical Release: January 27th, 2002 - International Film Festival Rotterdam

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DVD Review: Artificial Eye (UK) -  Region 2 - PAL

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Distribution Artificial Eye -  Region 2 - PAL
Runtime 2:07:37  
Video 2.65:1.00 Original Aspect ratio / 16X9 enhanced
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s
Audio Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono) 
Subtitles English, None
Features

Release Information:
Studio: Artificial Eye

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic 2.65:1

DVD Release Date: July 28th, 2003
Transparent Keep Case
Chapters: 13

Edition Details:

  • Interactive Menus
  • Scene Access
  • Carlos Reygadas Interview
  • Documentary "Ayacatzintla"
  • Trailer
Comments:
The picture quality of 2.65:1 anamorphic 16mm (that's 16mm, not even Super 16) is surprisingly beautiful. Removable English subs. Nice to have some meaty extras (a long director interview and an interesting documentary about an open-air screening of the film for the villagers where the film was shot). Note must be made here that the interview has been appallingly filmed (the camerawoman has left the auto-focus on the DV camera and the focus constantly shifts between Reygadas and the bookshelf behind him - hundreds of times. It really messed my eyes up.) The locations in this film are hands down the best thing about it. Almost worth seeing just for the locations (and a fantastic drunken song by a peripheral extra). I'm sure others will get more enjoyment out of the film than I did.

NOTE: To obtain this category cuts of 0m 51s were required. The cuts were Compulsory. Cuts required to two scenes involving real animal cruelty (an unsuccessful attempt to strangle a bird which then stumbles around injured on the ground; a dog being forced to 'sing along' to a song through the application of a painful stimulus). Cuts made in accordance with BBFC guidelines, BBFC policy and the Cinematograph Films (Animals) Act 1937..

Nick Wrigley of Masters of Cinema





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Distribution Artificial Eye -  Region 2 - PAL

 

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