Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

"" | Photo: Criteron Collection

The man with no name, who shall be called Grumpy, walks with a stick. He is crippled in one leg. He walks very slowly.

Carlos Reygadas's debut film, which was greeted in Cannes and elsewhere with roars of applause, is a mirror image of Grumpy. It takes a long time telling a lame tale. Scenes appear to have beginnings but no end. Languorous pan shots are favoured over fast cuts. You begin to wonder whether the editor is still alive.

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There are views from the windows of trucks that go on forever, as choirs sing beautifully over the soundtrack. Is this a film about landscape and loss? Grumpy says he's travelling to a village in the far off distant Mexican mountains to kill himself. Why? No-one bothers to ask.

There are no inns in the village and so Grumpy lodges with an old woman who lives up the hill. She is poor and generous, as peasants in far off distant places are supposed to be. He doesn't say thank you, thinking only of himself and where he's going to put the bullet that will end his miserable existence.

One day, he has a dream of a lissom girl in a bikini coming out of the sea and kissing the old woman on the mouth. After that he thinks about sex quite a lot and there is a scene of a stallion mounting a mare, with the boys of the village watching and laughing. Later, the old woman's fat nephew comes up the hill with his mates to knock half her house down. Grumpy tells them to back off and they ignore him. Clouds gather over the peaks.

The title is a mystery. There are no Japanese hiding in the barn. At times - most times, actually - you wish there were; they might be more fun. The film resembles Iranian cinema, with its lack of pace and respect for natural law. The vista has a grandeur that far exceeds the foolishness of man.

In far off distant mountains, you don't question what is, or what will be. You endure.

Reviewed on: 19 Mar 2003
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Mystery man seeks redemption and death in Mexico.
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Amber Wilkinson ****1/2

Director: Carlos Reygadas

Writer: Carlos Reygadas

Starring: Alejandro Ferretis, Magdalene Flores, Carlos Reygadas, Barquin, Martin Cerrano, Rolando Hernandez, Yolanda Villa, Bernabe Perez, Fernando Benitez and Claudia Rodriguez.

Year: 2002

Runtime: 122 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: Mexico/Spain


EIFF 2002

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