Saturday, March 04, 2006

Far From Heaven

The first shot of Batalla en el Cielo (Battle In Heaven) is a direct appropriation of the only shot of Andy Warhol's Blowjob, a thirty six minute film in which a man may or may not be recieving a blowjob. We learn quite quickly (a little too, perhaps) that there is no speculation in Battle In Heaven's case. The camera pans down the corpulent front of our grimy protagonist, Marcos, to find Ana, protagonist #2, fellating him. Now, to a post-Nine Songs, or rather (giving credit where it's due) enmeshed in the era of the French auteurs who demand their actors perform real sex (Catherine Breillat being the most prolific of these filimmakers), the only shocker associated with this scene lies in the repugnance of the man paralleled with the beauty of the woman. While I admire Battle In Heaven's consideration of time - the film utilizes s l o w meandering takes, which allows mere spectators a shot at protagonism, and its cinematography is perrhaps some of the best non-European influenced work this side of the Atlantic, I find that the dichotomy of ugly/beautiful a trite and shock-for-shock's-sake. Like Gaspard NoƩ's contreversial (and in my mind despicably shallow) Irreversible, again we have a world of polarities, where, if you're not stunningly beautiful, you weigh in at 300 pounds with the naked cellulite proof to match. In one of the films earliest scenes, we watch seemingly random people pass by a blanket of clocks and jello molds sold by our protagonist's wife (who is not given the decency of a name). In the group of "randoms" we first encounter a boy with down syndrome, then a geriatric man toting a piss bag. In the film's logic, you're either perfect or perfectly deformed. This goes for morality, too, as Wife (as we shall call her) lost her consciounce somewhere last lifetime. Marcos, too, has a few problematic traits: kidnapping, multiple homicide, but the positively obese woman he calls dear (his real life wife) is given the greatest credit as monster extraorinaire. The film pits a strange stance against Europeanism. Gas stations pump classical music to drown out the religious worshipers that Marcos refers to as sheep. Their son goes by Irving. Though the cinema seems completely unadorned by the trappings of European standards, a feat which deserves great respect considering director Carlos Reygadas contemporaries (Gus Van Sant, Michael Winterbottom, Claire Denis to name a few) all have their irrefutible dues to Europe's Neo-realism. This is a film I would like to like, but find just a few too many problematic traits in to recommend. Perhaps wait til video.


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