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Mexican film leans heavily toward anxiety

Cannes Film Festival

Charles Ealy

CANNES, France - Mexican director Carlos Reygadas declined last week to summarize his new impressionistic film "Post Tenabras Lux" during a Cannes press conference.

"I'm sure lots of the press won't like my film," he said, "but it's not my purpose to please as many people as possible."

Instead, he said, "I try to share what I feel, think and imagine."

If that's the case, then Reygadas has lots of anxiety, coupled with a contradictory view of nature's awe.

He begins the film with a scene that's both joyful and fearful. A girl, perhaps 2 or 3 years old, wanders a pasture set against a Mexican mountain range. She looks beautiful, as does the setting, but something ominous is going on.

Clouds are forming, and she is heading into a herd of cattle as various herding dogs chase the cattle to a nearly holding area. She mutters "cow" and "dog," as if these were her first words, and it's clear that she's oblivious to the danger.

The scene is shot on 35 millimeter film, with a lens that distorts the edges of the frame, so that the girl's figure can double when she's on the edges of the film. The framing also brings a more vertical look that helps emphasize the towering mountains and her small stature.

All of this is part of Reygadas' art, and while he declines to explain his nonlinear narrative, it becomes clear that the director is sharing emotions and feelings from the present and the past.

Some of those emotions reflect anxieties about the beauty of Mexico's landscape and the haphazard rape of the environment. In one section, for instance, a man with a chainsaw wanders through the forest and starts cutting at trees.

He's not harvesting them for lumber. He's just harming them to the point that they'll eventually die and crash in the forest.

In another key scene, a red devil appears at a home and carries a toolbox as he searches various rooms and a young boy watches. Again, Reygadas' anxieties come to the fore.

And in this case, he said, he was remembering his childhood when he would have nightmares about the devil being in the house. The two scenes featuring the devil were shot in Reygadas' childhood home.

Reygadas faced repeated questions about the film's marketability and the possibility of ever finding an audience. But the director didn't feel the need to explain anything to critics in Cannes.