watching a pan-and-scan version of John Ford’s wide-screen masterpiece The Searchers on a smart phone. Even
though the film is a classic, it would be a frustrating way to watch it. Yet,
Lisandro Alonso intentionally does something similar. Probably the best thing
going for his latest film is the stunning Patagonian backdrop, but he filmed
the picture in the videographic 4:3 TV-like aspect ratio. Audiences should be
warned, Alonso’s experimental aesthetic will always trumps their viewing
experience in Jauja (trailer here), which opens
tomorrow in New York.
Gunnar Dinesen is a Danish land surveyor serving during the so-called late
1800s “Conquest of the Desert” and therefore culpable for genocide in the film’s
eyes. The only thing that interests him in Argentina is his daughter Ingeborg, for
whom he seems to have an unhealthy attachment. Perhaps out of spite, she runs
off with a rakish young military officer, so her father sets off in hot
pursuit. He will follow and follow and follow, as the film slowly descends into
a tiresome Beckett-like exercise in absurdism. However, in the final minutes,
it throws a pointless surreal reality twister at us that is probably supposed
to be Borgesian, but really just invalidates any lingering investment we might
still have in the film.
Jauja is the sort of film that mostly
relies on intimidation to get by. Far too many critics are afraid to call out
films that are high in pretension and low in substance for fear they will be
dismissed as knuckle-dragging philistines or uneducated rubes. Take it from
someone well versed in poststructuralist critical theory and reasonably conversant
in the history of experimental cinema—damn little happens in Jauja.
it is hard to believe Viggo Mortensen is the star of both the Lord of the Rings trilogy and this film.
As Dinesen, he is credibly intense in a tunnel vision sort of way, but he is
mostly just out there on his own. Someone ought to toss him Tom Hanks’ volleyball
Perhaps you thought Jauja was the third Gabor
Sister, but in this context it is a mythical city of wealth and luxury that
kind of sort of represents all manner of quixotic quests. However, the film is
really about obsession and European guilt, which somehow manages to come out
through the characters’ stilted interactions and the meager servings of
narrative. It will have plenty of critical champions, but in this case the
emperor has no clothes. Not recommended, Jauja
opens tomorrow (3/20) in New York, at the IFC Center.
Labels: Argentine Cinema, Lisandro Alonso, Viggo Mortensen