Monday, May 4, 2015

6. Jauja

The movie: Jauja (Lisandro Alonso, 2014)

Have I seen this movie before? No.

How I saw it: Procured by the recommender.

The recommender: Micah Lubens

The rationale: I really wanted to pick something that would cause everyone to roll their eyes. I also just really needed someone else to have seen this movie so that they could explain what the hell I had watched. A blog where you can’t say no is therefore the perfect outlet for this movie. The logic is airtight, folks.

My familiarity with this movie: Jauja is quite a title for a movie. It’s very close to how Spanish-speaking people indicate laughter while typing (jajajaja). I am choosing to pronounce it like the lads from Outkast pronounce “Georgia.”

I know next to nothing about Jauja other than the information that Micah has provided to me: that it is a Danish Western set in Argentina, starring Viggo “Aragorn” Mortensen, shot in a bizarre aspect ratio. I’m intrigued. This man knows how much I love a bizarre aspect ratio. He also provided the following quote, from the Rotten Tomatoes critics’ consensus: “Jauja will prove haunting for those lured in by its deliberate pace and lovely visuals, though it may test some viewers' patience.” Oh sweet Jesus.

Plot summary and trailer yoinked from IMDb and YouTube, respectively: “A father and daughter journey from Denmark to an unknown desert that exists in a realm beyond the confines of civilization.” OH SWEET JESUS.

What I thought of the movie: Those “Oh sweet Jesus”es were warranted. Because oh sweet Jesus this movie.

It’s not that the movie is bad, per se. As the critics noted, the visuals are v lovely. The camera often is stationary for long periods of time (even as people exit the frame, leaving nothing happening on screen, but I suppose that was intentional and not a result of the director just forgetting to move the camera). This allows the audience lots (and I mean LOTS) of time to take in the nature, which is beautiful and forbidding, like a stripper.

(The aspect ratio is pretty cool, too, as you can see from the trailer. It makes the film look like a series of Instagrams. Trendy!)

So yeah, I’m not calling the movie bad. I’m just saying that, until the ending (and oh Lord will we get to this ending), very, very little happened, which makes it a bit of a frustrating watch. An opening title card informs us that Jauja is a mythical place in the desert, and that everyone who tries to get there is never heard from again. This is an exciting way to start a movie! And then the next 85 minutes or so are quite the slog.

Viggo Mortensen is the dad whose daughter, Ingeborg, runs off with some young soldier, and then goes on a quest to find her. We spend a lot of time with Viggo in this movie, and in almost none of it is he speaking, or really doing anything more exciting than drinking water and/or riding a horse. At one point someone gets killed, which was neat, but then in the next scene Viggo sleeps, on camera, for a good minute or two. (Speaking of which: Micah fell asleep briefly the first time he watched this movie. That Micah would watch this movie a second time really indicates his commitment to the blog.) Basically what I’m getting at here is that this movie is slow. Cecil Fielder slow. This movie makes Mad Men feel like Crank 2.

Now eventually Viggo meets up with an old woman in the desert, and they have a cryptic conversation. It is implied in this conversation that the old woman is in fact Ingeborg, and that here in Carcosa Jauja, Viggo gets to stay the same age while everyone else gets older? Maybe? But this isn’t even the most insane part.

(SPOILER ALERT, inasmuch as a movie like this can be spoiled.) The most insane part occurs after Viggo leaves this old woman. He goes off in the distance, presumably to continue his search. We smash cut to a big house. A girl wakes up and goes about her morning routine, which include watching TV and wearing modern clothes. So we’ve just jumped ahead in time at least a hundred years or so. AND GET THIS: THE GIRL IS PLAYED BY THE SAME ACTRESS AS INGEBORG, THE DAUGHTER. But! She then has a conversation with this old guy, and the old guy calls her Viibjork, not Ingeborg. (I later learned that the actress who plays this character is actually named Viibjork, which added at least two levels of WTF-ness to the proceedings, one of which is that Danish people name their children "Viibjork.") She plays with a dog for a while and finds an old toy soldier, which had been present in the original timeline. There’s a shot of a pool of water which dissolves into a shot of the desert, and that’s the end of the movie.

Now listen, folks. Micah and I are two fairly bright young men, and we are not ashamed to admit the following: we did not understand the ending of this movie. We still do not understand it. As far as we know, it doesn't make any sense. Micah has seen it twice now, and he still does not get it. I was brought on board to help try to figure the whole thing out, and oh, how I failed.

So I challenge you, the readers of the blog, to see this movie and explain the ending to us. Don't tell us it was all a dream, because this is supposed to be way artier than that. And we get that it’s meant to be symbolic, so don’t tell us, “It’s a metaphor for the lawlessness of the desert,” or some BS like that, because no. She wakes up in a house in the future and plays with a dog and that has nothing to do with anything, at all, ever. Just someone please tell me what happened, because I am mad right now. This movie made me feel dumb, and I prefer to feel smart. At least Dunston Checks In made me feel smart.

Am I happy I took Micah’s recommendation? Oh sweet Jesus.

What’s next?

UPDATE: Brother of the blog Tony Krizel recommends The Guest, which I hear is v good. We now go to Tony for his thoughts on the matter:


Thanks, bro.


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