3 out of 5 stars
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
japan Carlos Reygadas' meandering, fascinating Mexican epic obviously has deep meaning if you get it. If you don't you're in big trouble, although there are enough small moments to at least keep you from losing the will to live. Speaking of which: The story centres on a man (Ferretis) who journeys from the city into the wilderness to kill himself. We never find out much about him (not even his name!), but his moody examination of the life and death around him permeates the whole film. He begins at an encounter with a bunch of noisy hunters, who help him reach the edge of a vast canyon, into which he heads purposefully. In a small village he encounters a matter-of-fact widow named Ascen (Flores), amongst other colourful characters.

I suppose the title (Spanish for Japan) refers to the distant, alien location. But the basic idea here seems to be how nature and progress collide brutally--neither giving in to the other, and both carrying a force we mere humans are powerless to fight against. Dead animals abound--hunted, slaughtered or accidentally killed, but all in startling contrast to the man's desire to die. As his loneliness bubbles over into sexual longing, he seems to rediscover some life inside him, right up to the moment he makes a rather startling proposition to the wrinkly old Acen. The cast of non-actors all perform with raw authenticity, and the film is shot with an earthy Cinemascope that makes it look almost like science fiction--glary and dusty, which looks great on screen (although it plays havoc with subtitles). The whole thing has an otherworldly, elegiac tone that accents the gentle story, the subtle relationships between the characters and wry observations on themes from power, machismo and instinct to respect, tradition and cruelty. The long final shot is a pure stunner, with its 360-degree swirls and eerie revelations. But it does leave you wondering what it's about.

cert 15 adult themes and situations, language, nudity, grisliness 28.Nov.02

dir-scr Carlos Reygadas
with Alejandro Ferretis, Madgalena Flores, Yolanda Villa, Martin Serrano, Rolando Hernandez, Bernabe Perez, Carlos Reygadas Barquin, Fernando Benitez, Claudia Rodriguez
release UK 21.Feb.02; US 21.Mar.03
02/Mexico 2h17

Blood sport. A man (Ferretis, left) planning suicide is helped on his way by a group of hard-drinking hunters...

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R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... japan a viewer in cape breton, nova scotia: 1.5/5 stars "A relief from the predictable Hollywood film, beautiful in its unhurried plot development, but entirely self-indulgent on the part of the director. Why does the protagonist want to die? What's with all the dead animals? What does the title itself mean? Why are we subjected to that character singing toward the end? Why that long, long, long final shot (we get the point as soon as we see the rocks on the ground)? And most of all, why that grisly sex scene between the protagonist and the elderly woman? This movie will stay with anyone who sees it far longer than one might wish." (14.Aug.05)
© 2002 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall