Jim Emerson's post "What do we mean by the 'worst' movies of 2009?" spurred me to write about the worst damn film I saw all last year, Carlos Reygadas' Silent Light. Below is an explanation for why I think it's the worst and what I mean by worst. I would include a photo, but I'd rather not have to look at one of Reygadas' images every time I come here. The following was written as a comment, so excuse the lack of structure and informality.
The worst film I saw last year was Carlos Reygadas' "Silent Light."
I'd been hearing about the film for over a year, heard Scorsese, heard Ebert, and I waited to see it on film at Facets Cinematheque months after I could have seen it on my computer. I spent the entire running time uncomfortable and angry at what was being projected in front of me. Somehow, some way, a lack of perspective or any kind of expression had been confused with a meditative masterpiece. The mere depiction of nature had been confused with an immersion. What I saw was a complete exploitation of poverty, an exploitation on migrant faces and the wear that came with them. Exploitation of these performers and of the landscape they occupied. Film its self is an exploitative medium, but if you have something to convey, something to put across through that exploitation, that makes it worth it. Here there is nothing, it is a film completely devoid of any redeeming facets. Even the supposed "beauty" of the cinematography, the handheld shots of children bathing outdoors, all exploitation, as generic and without purpose as any car commercial.
I enjoy a lot of directors whose films could be described as slow. I love Ozu, Apitchatpong Weerasethakul, Tsai Ming Liang, Hou Hsiao Hsien, I am not impervious to the charms of nature lovers like Terrence Malick, I enjoy a tale or two of the forgotten people, some De Sica here, some Bresson there. I enjoy films that look good, even slick. David Gordon Green and Tarsem are favorites, but this thing has nothing that all those directors films do, a perspective and a reason to exist.
The most maddening shot I saw last year was the one in Silent Light when Reygadas (or whomever) tracks from outside a dusty gravel parking lot into an open garage, adjusting the iris as he enters and then leaves the garage. You don't see that in other films. You know why? It's lazy and most directors, even the ones least concerned with continuity or traditional film language, avoid doing it in-shot. They cut, they figure something else out, either way it never ends up in their film. But Reygadas does it in his film because he doesn't care, and he expects you not to either. After all, we're talking about a guy whose idea of great cinema is watching an erect penis slowly become flaccid, a shot he included in his previous film (which had an ugly, sexist poster around the globe).
The part that makes me so crazy is that beyond exploiting these people to try and lend some semblance of importance to his meaningless film is the glomming on of religion, death and some kind of idiotic implication of magic and death denial, and cut to a shot of tree in front of a sunset and associate it with nature and we're out.
Terrible film, and for those reasons worse than the other nine awful films I saw this year including Explicit Ills, Gigantic, Amelia, New York, I Love You, The Marc Pease Experience, The Box, Night and Day, Brothers and Year One.