In Japón, an unnamed, middle-aged painter (Alejandro Ferretis) journeys to a remote Mexican canyon village to commit suicide, only to find his plans altered by his unexpected relationship with Ascen (Magdalena Flores), a devout elderly woman in whose mountain barn he stays. This rudimentary plot description, however, barely begins to convey the fascinating wonders and mysteries of Carlos Reygadas’ debut, a film (clearly indebted to the work of Tarkovsky and Herzog) that – in its contemplative, circular Cinemascope cinematography (shot with an aspect ratio of 2.60:1!), unhurried rhythm, and unaffected performances – exudes both a palpable naturalism and hard-to-define spirituality. Often diverting its attentive gaze away from human action and toward the arid, rocky Mexican landscape, Japón – its nonsensical title meant to suggest a mood (of rising/rebirth?) rather than something literal – regularly feels as if it’s striving for magisterial profundity, with nearly every incident or casual aside seemingly drenched in import. Such self-conscious attempts at symbolic weightiness would, in lesser hands, be unbearably aggravating. Yet Reygadas’ film is nothing shy of enthralling, thanks in part to the endlessly captivating Ferretis and Flores (their visages lined with creases and burdened by loneliness and indecipherable grief), but mostly because the director’s command of cinema’s visual and aural vocabulary is so awe-inspiring, a fact evidenced by both an aerial shot of his protagonist lying prostrate next to a dead horse, as well as a prolonged, transcendent final sequence along a set of countryside train tracks.