BATTLE IN HEAVEN (Carlos Reygadas). 98 minutes. Subtitled. Opens Friday (April 14). For venues and times, see Movie Listings. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Following the hot intergenerational sex in his debut film, Japön, Carlos Reygadas 's new Mexican art film, Battle In Heaven , opens with a long, eerily quiet scene in which a young woman with dirty-blond dreadlocks gives head to a hefty, middle-aged man. She moves as if in a trance, her eyes closed as the camera pushes in to a close-up. Suddenly, she opens them.
These details are important, because Battle In Heaven is all about the emotional effect of its arty gestures. "I place acting on a secondary level, I place storytelling on a secondary level," Reygadas has said, "so what remains is much more abstract."
So forget the plot about a chauffeur who kidnaps a child and his rich-girl boss who runs a brothel for kicks. Here's the important advice: May contain Buöuelian froideur and high Modernist flourishes.
Reygadas is no doubt a serious filmmaker. He shoots even the most lurid events in a cool, measured style and exerts constant control over the minimalist soundtrack. But because his art is so showy, the eye comes to rest on surface details -- like the chauffeur's spectacular sprawling torso or Ana's dead eyes.
You're left pondering the embarrassments of human flesh while the film's got God on its mind.