Battle in Heaven

MAJOR PIERCE Mushkadiz, right, gets ironic with her stud.
MAJOR PIERCE Mushkadiz, right, gets ironic with her stud.

Time Out says

Carlos Reygadas begins and ends his latest drama with two lovingly scored, unsimulated blow jobs—but that doesn’t necessarily mean you should set your terror alert to Brown Bunny. Reygadas is clearly focused on bigger themes (namely, the state of contemporary Mexico) and has far less narcissism than Vincent Gallo. The director makes his intentions plain when rotund, taciturn protagonist Marcos (Hernndez) observes a pair of military pageants held in the capital city’s plaza, in which the symbolic hoisting of an enormous Mexican flag, like the blow jobs, appears with symmetrical precision twice. Though not an officer, Marcos chauffeurs a general to and fro, as well as the general’s rebellious teenage daughter, Ana (Mushkadiz).She secretly sidelines as a prostitute—of whose services Marcos avails himself frequently—while also listening sympathetically to a shameful issue plaguing her driver, involving the accidental death of an abducted infant.

Guilt and redemption quickly assert themselves as motivating forces, along with a strand of religious salvation explored in a stunning Buuelian sequence in which Marcos, police on his trail, buries his head in a cloth bag and crawls through the streets on a pilgrimage to church. Reygadas knows from artfully composed wide shots; his much-praised 2002 debut, Japn, felt like the rebirth of Andrei Tarkovsky. If Battle in Heaven suffers from anything, it’s the slightly precious subject matter that, while grounded in national collective anxieties (kidnapping, the influence of faith), still feels a touch on the sensational side. (Opens Fri; Angelika.)

—Joshua Rothkopf



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