(Light After Darkness) Mexican intellectual-naturist-mysticist-pictorialist-diplomat Carlos Reygadas takes a non-professional cast, including his daughter, into a verdant yet dangerous world very much like his own. An urban family with money has moved to the countryside, a beautiful place that gives itself over to lightning storms, flurries of animal madness and a bright red demon with horns and tail that goes door to door with a toolbox. (While the film reveals little, Reygadas says this is his own home and property.) “I watch lots of movies, and I truly appreciate the directors that don’t try to lead me by the hand through their stories. I want to be considered one of them,” the director of “Japón,” “Battle in Heaven” and “Silent Light” has written. Carlos: with your fourth feature, you win at art-house again. Forgoing the widescreen of his earlier features, Reygadas works in a nearly square format, with a purposely damaged lens, leaving the center of frames exceptionally sharp while blurring eddies out to the edges of each image. The use of natural light, especially at dusk and directly beyond, embraces the terrible threatening beauty of nature with quiet fervor. You can almost smell the brimstone and the hissing rain and the roiling mist pulls with it an unabiding tropical fug. The sequences are take it and leave it: setpieces that resist ready interpretation or viewing pleasure. Are they memories? Fantasies? Reygadas’ hardly mediated sketchbook? Take the shagged- and sweated-out swingers’ club with aching buffets and steam rooms stocked with the all-too-naked, each named after a different dead writer, and where off-screen crowds urge harder and faster feats of public buggery. Please. Good and evil are conjoined. Beauty and debasement: it’s Reygadas’ stock in trade, along with blighted naturalism and subtropical maladies that pass for elusive cultural critique. With Adolfo Jimenez Castro, Nathalia Acevedo, Willebaldo Torres, Rut Reygadas, Eleazar Reygadas. 115m. (Ray Pride)
“Post Tenebras Lux” opens Friday at Siskel. The trailer is below.
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” in words and images will be published in Spring 2022.