Directed by Lisandro Alonso
A father and daughter journey from Denmark to an unknown desert that exists in a realm beyond the confines of civilization.
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★★★★ review by davidehrlich on Letterboxd
an Andrei Tarkovsky remake of The Searchers? Seen through a slide projector? Starring Viggo Mortensen AS Andrei Tarkovsky?
enigmatic and already haunting.
★★★★★ review by nrh on Letterboxd
jauja is often but not always about a man trying to walk through a landscape without falling, although he ends up falling often.
jauja is a film for people who love horses and dogs.
the horizon in jauja rarely dominates, it is a landscape film where the screen is most often dominated by tall grass, rocks, dirt, still water, rocks. in one of the central moments the night sky dominates the frame, but in that shot the central figure is lying on the ground.
in several shots, most importantly those of night or sunset, the range of color in jauja brought to mind she wore a yellow ribbon, a film which this hardly resembles.
jauja is a lisandro alonso film with an axial cut to a close-up of a man drawing a sword. an image that is ruthlessly undercut throughout the remainder of the film, and, i suppose, the parts of the film preceding that image.
the lone gunfight in jauja, if you can call it that, reminded me of fregonese, which is to say that alonso is already a master at this, but a strange one.
jauja has one of the best scores of any film i have seen in recent years, but this is mostly apparent in scenes without music (there are only two).
a lot of people walked out of this screening, but i don't think they were there to see jauja at all, really.
★★★★★ review by Sean Gilman on Letterboxd
Another favorite was Lisandro Alonso's Jauja, wherein Viggo Mortensen (who also produced) plays a Danish captain in the Argentine military out on campaign against the local population. His 14-year-old daughter runs of with one of his soldiers, into the wild, despite the presence somewhere out there of a mad former soldier, gone murderously native. Mortensen sets off alone to track her down, one part Ethan Edwards, one part Aguirre. Like Alonso's previous film, Liverpool, the only other one of his films I've yet seen, Jauja is composed of long, deliberate takes, but this is slow cinema that burns with purpose, always grasping into the unknown. I don't know that I've ever seen a film as obsessed with what is not on the screen: every shot seemingly involves someone looking at or talking to someone or something off-camera, or heading out into space we can't see. The unusually square aspect ratio (with rounded corners that make the film look like a slide projection) only heightens this effect, magnifying the blackness and blankness that surround our searcher. In contrast to the industrial whites of Liverpool, Jauja is gorgeously colored, the blues and reds of Mortensen's uniform popping unnaturally against the greens and browns and grays of the desert, with an impossibly starry sky imparting a feel of fairy tale whimsy to what might have been a dour and bloody saga of futility. And then things get weird: our minimalist film becomes something extraordinary, equal parts Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Alain Resnais (specifically the coda of Wild Grass) and the Insanity Pepper episode of The Simpsons.
★★★★ review by Jonathan White on Letterboxd
TIFF 2014 Film #13
Reason for pick: My wife’s love of Viggo Mortensen and buzz from Cannes
At the end of the film I couldn't believe that I liked it. Damn, I might even well love it. Less than one hundred minutes before, coffee in hand, I was straining to stay awake. This wasn't some 10pm show, or a Midnight Madness … it was noon. I looked to my left and asked my friend Rick ‘Well?’ … ‘I think I like it’ he replied with timidity and a slight expression of disbelief. I looked to my right and asked my wife, Lise … virtually the same reply. How could this be?
This was even before the Q and A where director Lisandro Alonso and star Viggo Mortensen waltzed ( literally ) onto the stage, the closing credits crawling up their swirling figures; The TIFF presenter looking on with from side stage with a kind of befuddled mirth.
The only thing you really need to know about Jauja is that it’s a quest to regain something that you've lost. The quest is full of peril, and full of those who deceive, or worse, but the quest is a just one. You are tested along the way by large tracts of wordless walking, crawling, climbing, slipping, and wading. You are rewarded with spectacular visuals and beguiling mysteries. Around the beginning of the last third of the film, whose structure defies the simple quantification of ‘acts’, there is a conversation that s sets your mind alight. This is where I began to like .. no love .. this piece of art.
Jauja has a look that, to me, was both familiar and foreign. The organic composition of each static shot a style of painting that I was sure I had seen before, but the landscape foreign. It looked hyper-real, with strongly saturated colour, but not intimidating or garish. Things fell into place when at the Q and A Lisandro revealed that his DOP was Timo Salminen; the genius behind the lens of most of Aki Kaurismaki’s films. This was it .. the sensibilities of the Kaurismaki set and composition, but set in the out of doors.
When the house lights came up, and Viggo and Lisandro finished their twirls, the TIFF presenter asked them to speak about the symbology and meaning they were after. Lisandro replied to the audience that he didn't have a clue, but hoped we could help him out in that department. A wry little mischievous smile crossed his face; one that insinuated a thousand previous conversations between himself and Mortensen; but I believe there was some truth in what he spoke. That’s what makes Jauja a gem, and possibly even more.
★★★★½ review by David Grillo on Letterboxd
Something true about watching this kind of cinema, that despite an audiences search for answers what ever really gets fleshed out are the questions, a film is not a dream but instead asks us "what is a dream" ? Juaja is not dissimilar to a Samuel Becket play or a Pablo Neruda poem but in particular it reminded me of a short story by the playwright Georg Buchner called "Lenz" the idea being that when an exhausted man is walking it is the ground beneath his feet that is alive. In this film the landscape, the rocks, the land and the sky all see the characters off choosing their path similar to what Tag Gallagher said about Ford and how "objects witness events" and what he said about The Searchers, "The Rocking Chair is empty. Ethan will wander forever" or Stagecoach, "The fence watches the Stagecoach leave civilization" and Liberty Valance, "The Cactus Rose tells him everything". Alonso lets the land speak for the characters not in a way where it divulges their secrets like we have seen in many films before instead it shares a constant and timeless unknown with the commanders whose uniforms often reflect our understanding of the landscape by covering our distance with the past. The films retelling of the past welcomes the unknown and puts the same emphasis on its historical surroundings with the experience of going into the past, molding its terrain with the barriers of the human will. Alonso's Native Americans are painted plainly and are for the most part unseen, horses are an extension of a man's stature, Ingeborg is bound by her long blue dress but when she escapes she is both desirable and naive in her white garments and by extension in the films ending it is something consistent and familiar, the faces and bodies of the commanders all tell their own story and even the dogs have their own mystery everything in the frame has it's own mystery. Juaja blends a time and it's people with figures in space a little bit like a painting but more like a streak of light.
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