Film Reviews

Post Tenebras Lux Is Confusing but Pretty

An early scene in Carlos Reygadas' Post Tenebras Lux might serve as a metaphor for its audience's experience watching the film: A little girl (the director's daughter Rut) wades through a muddy field, desperately calling out her relatives' names. Confusion often reigns here, but the film offers a degree of lush beauty that makes sitting through it well worth the occasional frustrations. Its middle section depicts racial and class tensions between architect Juan (Adolfo Jiménez Castro), his wife, Nathalia (Nathalia Acevedo), and their darker-skinned, poorer neighbors. This culminates in a blast of violence, but even then the narrative feels like an assembly of disconnected scenes. In one of the weaker set pieces, Reygadas returns to the sexual provocation of Battle in Heaven, his second film: an orgy set in a bathhouse where everyone speaks French. The rest of the time, the surrealism hews closer to home. The cinematography blurs the edge of the frame, creating a fuzzy shimmer that often doubles the image. Like recent films Upstream Color and Spring Breakers, Post Tenebras Lux embraces a psychedelic vibe that prizes sensual experience over conventional narrative, a trip that isn't always pleasant: Satan makes two cameos, and I don't think they're intended as jokes. Post Tenebras Lux doesn't achieve the stunning visuals of the opening scene of Reygadas's Silent Light (one of the past decade's masterpieces), but it remains a worthy followup.

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Steve Erickson