Saturday, April 11, 2015

Lisandro Alonso's new film "Jauja" at Northwest Film Forum: Apr 17 - 23

Seattle has had the fortune of hosting rare screenings of Lisandro Alonso not only in the festival circuit, but a workshop and complete retrospective of the director's work, "At the Edge of the World: The Cinema of Lisandro Alonso" during his residency at Northwest Film Forum in 2009. In a series of interviews with Senses of Cinema, Alonso discusses his way of looking at and framing the world -- the physical nature of time and characters that inhabit it -- on the screen in a way that favors the enveloping integrity of the environment and the immediacy of moments within. Ranked in Sight & Sound's year-end poll, "Jauja" which opens next week at Northwest Film Forum not only features the unlikely paring of the producer and star power of Viggo Mortensen, but the 19th Century period setting in the aftermath of the Conquest of the Desert of the 1870's during which the Argentinean army attempted to drive all indigenous peoples out of Patagonia. Mortensen playing the Danish military engineer Gunnar Dinesen in search of his runaway daughter, making "Jauja,’ a Desperate Odyssey in the Argentine Desert". Ostensibly the film's premise has parallels with Joseph Conrad's "Nostromo" in it's associations of imperialism, place and setting and John Ford's "The Searchers" in it's commentary on conquest and xenophobia. In a sly nod of recognition, Alonso's discussion with Senses of Cinema asks "'Who’s John Ford?': An Interview with Lisandro Alonso". More than just a quest for his daughter and her disappearance into the landscape, Film Comment's interview and film of the week review, "Into the Unknown: Lisandro Alonso Travels Back in Time to Find a Way Forward with Jauja" places time as integral to the texture and force of the film. And as it progresses, by increments "Jauja" gradually shifts emphasis as Dinesen advances up the mountain, from the historical to the mythical to the Oneiric. Journeying into a space which is maddeningly impassable to a man of his logical mind; riding his horse over it's great expanses, the land offers up nothing of his daughter's whereabouts. By turns becoming an adventure in texture, scale, light and by the film's conclusion, even time. Like the film's protagonist, we travel through terrain, places and eras where the viewer registers the signs but cannot read them; they abstract interpretation and confound the rational eye.