Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Film Review: SILENT LIGHT (2007, Carlos Reygadas)

Stars: 3 of 5.
Running Time: 145 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: This film is too austere to have notable people associated with it. Except Carlos Reygadas. Remember the name of the auteur, Carlos Reygadas. Reygadas Reygadas Reygadas.
Tag-line: This film is too austere to have a tag-line.
Best one-liner(s): Maybe best Bible passage?
Awards: Jury Prize at Cannes, Golden Ariel, Jury Award at Bergen, Gold Hugo at Chicago, Best Director at Havana, Golden Colón at Huelva, Critics Award at Lima, Golden Propeller at Motovun, and the FIPRESCI Prize at Rio de Jineiro.

Let's talk about SILENT LIGHT. People are saying I should love it merely because it takes what mainstream Hollywood does and then does the exact opposite. People are saying the film adheres to an asceticism on par with its characters. People note that the film contains several minutes of uninterrupted driving shots without dialogue. Not to be a dick, but I could say the same things about MANOS: THE HANDS OF FATE. Or ROCK 'N ROLL NIGHTMARE. In all seriousness, though, SILENT LIGHT features some of the most majestically hypnotic images in all of cinema.

The opening and closing uninterrupted tracking shots of sunrise and sunset filled me with a childlike wonderment, and I was glued to the screen for their multi-minute duration in an oddly similar manner to how I might be held rapt by a well-paced thriller. Cornelio Wall Fehr delivers a masterful performance which prompts me to label him the Mennonite Ray Winstone.

The homage to ORDET is well done, as far as an open, direct homage to ORDET can be well done. There are a lot of great things going on here, and the minimalism works well over half the time. But then there are ten minute sequences of milking cows and driving a harvester where NOTHING HAPPENS. Okay, I get it. It shows the chaste, simple lifestyle. I'm supposed to get all snooty and tell my friends that ‘Oh, guess what, I just saw a film that doesn't have MTV-style editing,’ and then feel superior to everyone else. Look. I am not an enemy of minimalism. I think Haneke hits it out of the park almost every time, Tsai Ming-Liang does it every once in a while, and Antonioni is in the running for being my all-time favorite filmmaker. But listen, Carlos:

You ain't Antonioni. You're not even Haneke. And despite your ridiculous outfit, you're also not Tarantino. So let's everybody just calm down, breathe normally, and remember that we're watching a film, not seeking a sleep aid or a torture device. There's perhaps five stars worth of brilliance in this film, but seriously Carlos, I really gotta take two away just to teach you a lesson about what happens when you waste even a little bit of my time.

-Sean Gill

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