It took me a while to figure out exactly what I wanted from a vacation. On the one hand, a vacation is an opportunity to do something adventurous, but on the other hand, it's also a chance to do all the relaxing things which you never have enough time for during the work week. I think I've finally calibrated how much of each I want out of a trip: yes, I want to spend some time being a tourist, but I also want to make time for being lazy. As a result, my new bucket list goal is to go to a major film festival, because that would be a good chance to do something unique but it would also give me a lot of time to watch movies.
However, even though the Cannes film festival is basically the grand dame of the festival world, I don't think I can't see myself ever wanting to go there. In large part that's because it's so busy that attending seems like it would be a constant hassle, but it is also because their selection of films doesn't really suit my tastes. Take for example Post Tenebras Lux, which won best director at the 2012 festival, and which seems to me like a good example of the festival's strengths and weaknesses.
I can see why Post Tenebras Lux would win an award for direction. For one, it stands out because it's filmed in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio which was standard for silent films, but which has fallen out of vogue since. It's a bold choice that helps to give the film a strong visual style. It also does a good job of framing the film's compositions, which often have a strong central figure and then blur out towards the edge of the frame. Most importantly, it has a hypnotic tone, using mood as a way to connect the various vignettes which don't always have obvious plot connections.
However, I have a limited tolerance for films which don't always have obvious plot connections. In this regard, Post Tenebras Lux is better than a lot of other artsy films I've seen. The film is accessible enough that I always felt I was one scene away from having the whole thing cohere, and that feeling is necessary for me to want to keep plugging ahead on a difficult movie. On the other hand, it was also inscrutable enough that I was also worried that the key I was waiting for would never arrive, which is a feeling that worries me more than it should. I left feeling unsatisfied but not outright stymied, which might be the best case scenario for me with this sort of film.
Post Tenebras Lux is definitely a delicate balancing act. It lives on a razor's edge between being a direct relatable portrait of one family in Mexico and being a purely expressionist movie that is expressing itself through symbols who happen to look like people. It moves backwards and forwards in time on some internal rhythm that I never quite grasped; it segues between fantasy and reality in a way that seemed complimentary, if not always comprehensible. The fact that it never quite falls off that razor's edge is to it's testament to it's director's vision. The fact that it ever wanted to walk that razor's edge at all makes me question how much that director's vision lines up with my own.
Even though I probably couldn't claim to have enjoyed this movie, I'm glad I saw it. It was a good palate cleanser from my normal string of pulp, and it made me exercise mental muscles I'm generally too lazy to use. But there's no way I could watch several of these in a day. The title of this film translates to "light after darkness", but watching three of these in a row just sounds like darkness after darkness after darkness to me.