Saturday, March 28, 2015

Jauja Review

As I continue to explore fascinating foreign language cinema, the types of work I used to unfortunately ignore, I have found myself constantly puzzled and being forced to sleep on a film before being able to form a coherent thought or two to start my write-up.

In other words, it has been an amazing and rewarding time for me and my understanding of the medium lately, and that continues with the gorgeous new film Jauja. The final frame left the screen and there I was, staring at a spot on the wall as I contemplated what I had just seen. A shit eating grin plastered on my face, I'm sure.

Jauja debuted last year at the Cannes Film Festival and has been seen at other fests and released in other countries since, but it is finally getting its limited release here in the United States just now. I recall catching wind of some very positive word of mouth months ago and being annoyed at just how long it would be before I could see it.

It was worth the wait.

Director of Photography Timo Salminen puts a very unique spin on this film with the way it is framed, using a 4:3 aspect ratio with rounded corners that brought a surreal feel to the entire experience, as if I was watching an old slideshow of moving photographs rather than a film. By utilizing this approach with the landscapes that make up the setting of the picture, the result is an overall haunting and spellbinding enigmatic movie that is difficult to wrap my head around.

A friend and fellow cinema enthusiastic mentioned a similarity to the Australian classic Picnic at Hanging Rock by Peter Weir, which I watched and reviewed for the first time recently, and I definitely could feel those vibes flowing through Jauja. At one point a mangy dog plays an important role as to literally what direction Gunnar (Viggo Mortensen) takes going forward and I couldn't help but notice that it looked like it had walked out of the "Zone" in the Tarkovsky masterpiece Stalker and headed straight for the desolate landscapes of Jauja

I have no idea what previous pictures played a role in influencing this fascinating new work from Lisandro Alonso but it's easy to tell that the lifeblood of incredible work from decades past is flowing through the veins of Jauja. Some may find the languid pacing to be more trouble than its worth, and at times during the first half of the film I will admit it felt as if very little was actually happening, but for me the methodical movements within a frame and the way shots would linger on seemingly nothing all added to the mysticism that I completely fell in love with.

It's early and literally dozens of pictures are still on their way to try and surpass it, but as of right now Jauja is my favorite film of 2015.


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