Carlos Reygadas here in person to present and discuss Post Tenebras Lux

Screening: Saturday, April 27, 8:00 p.m., Rich Theatre

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For the final night of Extraordinary Visions: Mexico Past and Present Through the Eyes of Gabriel Figueroa and Carlos Reygadas, we are honored to be hosting director Carlos Reygadas for the advanced screening of his new film Post Tenebras Lux (2012), the work which earned him the best director prize at this past year’s Cannes Film Festival. After the film, we’ll have a chance to sit down with Mr. Reygadas and ask him about this mystifying, ambitious, jaw-dropping-ly beautiful new work as well as the rest of his career. For a teaser, see the images below as well as the wonderful interview about his film and his upcoming visit to Atlanta on Burnaway.

For tickets to the Saturday, April 27th Conversation with Carlos Reygadas and Screening of Post Tenebras Lux, click HERE. Please also note that this film is not yet rated and may contain scenes not suitable for all viewers. mar

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Revolución

Screening: Saturday, April 20, 8:00 p.m., Rich Theatre

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Made in 2010 on the occasion of the Mexican Revolution’s centennial, Revolución brings together 10 of Mexico’s most prominent contemporary filmmakers to explore the meaning of revolution for Mexico today. Each short film reveals a radically different perspective on the concept, demonstrating both the complexity of Mexico’s contemporary political consciousness as well as the dynamism of current Mexican filmmaking. The featured directors include the subject of our film series, Carlos Reygadas, as well as: Mariana Chenillo, Fernando Eimbcke, Amat Escalante, Gael Garcia Bernal, Rodrigo Garcia, Diego Luna, Gerardo Naranjo, Rodrigo Pla, and Patricia Riggen.

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For tickets to the Saturday, April 20 screening of Revolución, click HERE.

Japón (2002)

Screening: Saturday, April 13, 8 p.m., Rich Theatre

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Japón, Carlos Reygadas’ first feature film, was shot on 16 mm Cinescope, which lends the vast landscapes of Hidalgo and the weathered creases of our protagonist’s face their particular texture in this film. As critic J. Hoberman wrote, “More eccentric than overweening, less cosmic than intractable, Japón’s allegorical aspect is almost always subsumed in a material sense of the film as object. This movie feels arduously made and newly exhumed, having the aspect ratio and warm, bleached tinge of a vintage spaghetti western.”

A.O. Scott waxed poetic along the same aesthetic lines: “If Japón is unapologetically abstract, preferring metaphysics to narrative, it is also bracingly, even abrasively sensual. The director seems to want to push through the barriers that separate sight from the other senses: even on screen the washed-out, metallic light seems to have a temperature and a taste. When clouds shadow the landscape, you sense a change in humidity as well as luminosity. The spiraling camera movements suggest an intension not just to show you the whole world but to plunge you into the midst of it. Mr. Reygadas wants you to feel the roughness of the stones, the chill of the rain and–especially–the passage of time.”

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As with all of Reygadas’ films, however, the grandiosity of the cinematic image and the awe-inspiring grace of the natural world find an ugly counterpoint in human frailty, suffering, cruelty, and carnal desire. Our protagonist has left Mexico City in search of his final resting place and the gumption to go through with his suicide. He beats a trail of existential dread through the glorious mountains of central Mexico, and the awakening of his brute sexuality threatens to corrupt the peace and compassion of others. But Ascen, the elderly widow who takes him in, meets all his dark indulgences and self-serious ponderings with the openheartedness and levelheadedness of the most saintly of humans. Indeed, it is through her that Japón offers up its great compromise between nature and the flesh, as the boundlessness of her humanity comes to be nothing short of divine.

For tickets to the Saturday, April 13th screening of Japón, click HERE.

Silent Light (2007)

Screening: Saturday, April 6, 8 p.m. Rich TheatreSilentLight1

This Saturday we have our first film from world-renowned art cinema director and contemporary Mexican auteur Carlos Reygadas. At its 2007 release Silent Light won five Ariel Awards (Mexico’s equivalent to the Oscars), the Grand Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival, and many other international prizes.

A story of a Mennonite family living in rural Mexico and the events and emotions that test the faith of the family’s patriarch, Silent Light is inspired by—one might even say it’s a remake of—Danish director Carol Theodor Dreyer’s 1955 film Ordet. Like its source material, Silent Light is organized around the problem of photographing, seeing, and believing in the transcendent. It’s part of the richly paradoxical tradition of religious-realist films, which combine a naturalist attention to “ordinary life” with capturing the spiritual world of divine happenings. There would appear to be an unavoidable friction between depicting everyday, material existence and portraying something like a divine miracle or any other event that belongs to a realm beyond proof, beyond material evidence, beyond the photographic image. How, after all, does one faithfully represent an intangible entity?

Silent Light gracefully delves into this contradiction, however, by evoking the transcendent through the everyday. In this movie we can never point to the existence of divine action, but ordinary objects—the human face, the ticking of time, the natural world, the simple turning over of a day—all this slowly bends toward evidencing the transcendent. 

Famed film critic and theorist Andre Bazin wrote of Ordet, “Within this universe which is more conscious of mystery, the supernatural does not loom up from outside. It is pure immanence, revealed in its extremity as the ambiguity of nature.” Silent Light‘s beginning long-take of the sun rising and of the sun setting at film’s end exemplify the supernatural, pure immanence in the ambiguity of nature that Bazin see in Ordet. These scenes ask the viewer to meditate on the “everyday” quality of nature, while their spectacle and sheer beauty bespeak a daily miracle and call forth that most famous first miracle, “Let there be light.”SilentLight2

Indeed, sunlight inflects almost every moment of this film, and in its rare absence other natural forces present themselves. The skies open up and rain pours to take away a beloved wife and mother in a seemingly divine deluge, the echoes of which resound in the holy water that washes the film’s young and dead. We wade through hilltop prairies and watch the clouds roll in. Nature rains down, rises up, and shines upon us, performing something greater than its mere elements, and yet we can only consume its textural surface. It comes up to meet us at the very limits both of our senses and of the filmic medium itself, as sunlight refracts and separates through the camera’s vision and water splashes against the lens. These natural forces glimmer and soak our view, but there is no penetrating them to find some ultimate truth or some definitive image of a god; we can only receive them as they are and stare in wonder at the spiritual essence they may harbor.

Light and nature find a brilliant reprisal in the final, climactic miracle of Silent Light: a resurrection. The scene presents an ostensibly insurmountable challenge to a realist aesthetic, for with such an explicit invocation of a higher power, what other choice does a religious-realist film have but to fall back into the safe territory of pure representation—of finally picturing the undepictable force by which the transcendent occurs? But Silent Light once again finds a way to picture only pure immanence and faith in, not the factual existence of, the transcendent. 

Dressed in stark white, the deceased lies amid pearly linens, her white coffin a lonely island in her immaculate surroundings. This last, white room seems to be a transitional space to the bright light flooding in through the windows, overexposed to spiritual excess. If it is God, natural light, or both that summons the deceased, it is also the natural world. Right before the miracle occurs, a character holds up her hand in a commonplace gesture to block the sun from hitting her eyes, but the camera lingers, her arm extended toward the heavens. A cut to a point-of-view shot shows her hand over the sun. Through sheer duration, this shot transforms a common gesture into a miraculous acceptance of grace from the heavens, a grace which she will pass on to the dead.  

You’ll have to come to the screening to see what happens next. But I will say, in the end we have only a butterfly that flutters around the room before escaping through the window into nature; whether it is earthly existence or eternal bliss is left unspoken in the face of a slow sequence of landscapes that culminates in the last, dark sinking of the sun.

For tickets to the Saturday, April 6 screening of Silent Light go HERE.