Thursday, May 30, 2013

Post Tenebras Lux (2012)

WHO: Mexican auteur Carlos Reygadas wrote, directed and co-produced this.

WHAT: I don't think it's possible to understand Post Tenebras Lux after a single viewing, which is all I've had time to partake in. So I'm just going to link to British microcnema project A Small Cinema, which has created a terrific cross-section of reviews (including some negative ones) and interviews with Reygadas, and if you're considering seeing it, you'll surely be swayed one way or the other by a spending time perusing that site and its links.

I did want to briefly comment on one of the most noteworthy technical aspects of the feature: the use of a image-distortion for (I believe) all of the outdoor scenes and (I believe) none of the indoor scenes. The device has been called "tilt-shift" by some but although the effect appears related to the examples of this affect created by Olivo Barbieri or (more famously) David Fincher, there's not the sense of miniaturization used in their shots, so I feel this must be something else. It's as if Reygadas has shot through a special lens that refracts his images much like the concentric circles of a fresnel lens. It focuses attention to the centers of his academy-ratio images, much like a silent-era iris, but with a distortion and not a complete obfuscation of the frame edges. It seems like an attempt to interiorize exterior shots, making them fit into Reygadas's locked-in, anti-naturalistic scheme.

WHERE/WHEN: Tonight through Saturday at 7:30 and Sunday at 2:00 and 4:30 at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

WHY: The cinema world tends to fixate on the Cannes Film Festival top prize, the Palme d'Or, but frequently the films earning the Best Director prize end up being the more memorable ones. It's hard to know whether last year's Palme-winning Amour will go down as a great contribution to cinema, or just an average film in Michael Haneke's filmography. But Post Tenebras Lux has engendered more extreme reactions; it was booed at the festival but also won the Best Director award for Reygadas, and has divided critics and audiences as it's toured the world since. Might it be more along the lines of landmarks which won the latter prize and not the former, such as Luis Buñuel's Los Olvidados in 1951, François Truffaut's the 400 Blows in 1959, or David Lynch's Mulholland Dr. in 2001?

Frisco Bay finally has five chances to make guesses along these lines this week, as YBCA screens Reygadas's film here for the first time. It comes in the week following his protégé Amat Escalante's triumph at the 2013 Cannes festival with his third feature Heli, which by winning the Best Director prize only a year after his producer Reygadas did, makes a real statement, giving a Mexican maker that award for the third time this decade; no film from that country has won the Palme d'Or since Buñuel's Spanish-Mexican co-production Viridiana.

HOW: DCP presentation of a digital feature.

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