In the hard-bop jazz of the 1950s, at least one session that was deemed unusually esoteric by its artists got the LP title “For Musicians Only.” There’s a subset of contemporary art film that could be categorized “For Cinephiles Only.” “Our Time,” the latest from the virtuosic Mexican director Carlos Reygadas, belongs in it.
Just describing the movie can elicit eye rolls. “It’s a three-hour drama about marital infidelity in which the director and his wife play the central couple. No, they don’t play themselves, exactly. Reygadas’ character is an acclaimed poet who runs a bull ranch … wait … come back … ”
But really: wait. This critic has seen “Our Time” twice now, and at each screening was equal parts enthralled, exasperated, impatient and inspired. Reygadas and his wife, Natalia López, a film editor, give naturalistic, convincing performances as Juan and Ester, whose progressive views on coupledom are shaken when Ester falls in with an American “horse whisperer” named Phil (Phil Burgers). Juan needles Ester, complaining that all would have been well had she not committed a tiny deception at the affair’s outset. The husband soon reveals himself as a passive-aggressive manipulator of the worst sort.
The film is replete with long shots of severe but beautiful landscapes and strange, near-phantasmagoric episodes. There’s a long take with a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it bit in which two of the film’s teenage characters visit the present as their 10-years-younger selves — a sort of in-shot flashback that’s never explained. A scene in which Genesis’ “The Carpet Crawlers” plays while the camera explores the engine block of a pickup truck may be my favorite film sequence of the century so far. (Sounds odd, but there you are.) A love letter read over an epic shot of a plane’s descent is unaccountably moving. And so on. The movie asks a lot of the viewer, but to this viewer, it gave back more.
Not Rated. In Spanish and English, with English subtitles. Running time: 2 hours 53 minutes.
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